Destro

Serie A roundup: Napoli loses ground as Juventus and Roma both win

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Serie A at the moment has become just a bit more of a two-horse race as Napoli’s draw with Udinese has dropped them eight points off the lead and five back in third place.

AC Milan continued their struggles this year by drawing at relegation-candidates Livorno, and Sampdoria picked up three vital points to escape the relegation zone.

Roma 2-1 Fiorentina

With Juventus winning at Bologna on Friday, 10-man Roma needed a winner from 22-year-old Mattia Destro to keep pace.

Destro, making his season debut after returning from a knee injury, came in as a 57th minute sub and scored 10 minutes later, a tap-in off a cross from Gervinho.

If not for Fiorentina’s goalkeeper Neto making a number of fine second-half saves, it could have been much worse.  The result keeps Fiorentina 10 points back of Roma in 5th place.

Inter 3-3 Parma

A crazy game ended all square, as three goals flew in during a wild 5-minute stretch in the second half.  Rodrigo Palacio had a brace for the home side but it was the second of Nicola Sansone’s double that drew Parma level.

All the goals save for one came between the 44th minute and 59th minute.

The draw means Inter can’t capitalize on Napoli’s misstep, leaving them one above Fiorentina in 4th position and four back of the Azzurri.

Napoli 3-3 Udinese

A disastrous result on Saturday for Napoli, they give up the lead on two separate occasions and drop points at home to a bottom-half side.

Goran Pandev gave the hosts a 2-0 lead with a first-half brace, but Napoli gave that up with an own goal plus a strike from Portugese midfielder Bruno Fernandes.  It took less than a minute for Blerim Dzemaili to restore Napoli’s lead, but Dusan Basta drew level in the 80th minute.

Rafa Benitez’s Napoli only climb to 32 points, five back of Roma and seven off the lead.  They host Arsenal midweek in the Champions League.

Bologna 0-2 Juventus

Back on Friday, the league leaders maintained their advantage with a comprehensive 2-0 road win over 19th-placed Bologna.

Arturo Vidal, filling in at CM for the injured Andrea Pirlo, started things off with a long-distance strike in the 12th minute, and Giorgio Chiellini finished it off late with a header to seal the win.

It was a good win for Juventus, who sat both Carlos Tevez and Kwadwo Asamoah, although both came on as late subs.

source: AP
Mario Balotelli came to AC Milan’s rescue with a brace and a late equalizer, but they continue to drop points.

Livorno 2-2 AC Milan

With things looking up after two road wins at Celtic and Serie A bottomfeeders Catania, AC Milan returned to their old tricks by dropping points to 18th-place Livorno.

It could have been worse had Mario Balotelli not rescued the Rossoneri with a brace, including a thunderous free kick with seven minutes to go.

Balotelli also clattered the crossbar from 35 yards out with time running out, nearly snatching victory. Unfortunately, it was only 1 point for Milan as they jump just two points to ninth place.

Sampdoria 2-0 Catania

Scores by Manolo Gabbiadini and Eder were enough to give Sampdoria their first win in six matches and a boost out of the Serie A relegation zone with three vital points.

The visitors were only level at the break thanks to some off-target shooting by Gabbiadini, but the second half saw Sampdoria get the breakthrough.

They move to 16th, and are just three points off the top half.

Torino 1-0 Lazio

A key victory for Torino gave them a huge boost in the crowded middle of the Serie A table, as Kamil Glik took advantage of a defensive mistake early on and sent the home side through with the prize.

The middle of the table is so clumped that the three points pushed Torino all the way from 12th to 7th.

Lazio are sorely missing striker Miroslav Klose, who has missed the last three matches with a shoulder injury.  They are winless in their last six, with three losses in that time.

Cagliari 2-1 Genoa

Genoa dropped a very tough away day match against mid-table Cagliari thanks to Marco Sau’s second-half brace, the second of which came in injury time.

Alberto Gilardino gave Genoa the lead early on, but plenty of second-half pressure from the home side paid dividends in the 75th when Sau found the equalizer, and he doubled up late on a look-what-I-found moment in the box.

Genoa remains in 8th while Cagliari move up to 10th position.

Sassuolo 0-1 Chievo

Chievo jumped Sassuolo in the table by snatching a 1-0 away win.  Cyril Thereau picked up the game’s only goal early into the second half.

Lampard urges Chelsea to sign Terry; If not, would buy his plane ticket to MLS

during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on January 31, 2015 in London, England.
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John Terry is the last of the old guard at Chelsea, and club legend Frank Lampard thinks he deserves to stay at Stamford Bridge.

Speaking with the web site ShortList.com, Lampard also said he’d welcome the defender to Major League Soccer with open arms, and checkbook.

[ MORE: Premier League’s Top Five story lines for Week 26 ]

Saying he’d “I’ll get his plane ticket and get him over here,” the New York City FC midfielder called Terry “quite comfortably” the best defender he’d ever played with during his career.

From Shortlist.com:

“What John offers is a link with the fans and an appreciation of the young players who he would want to help come through. He’s Mr Chelsea. Those are the sorts of players you need at the club. Without telling the club what to do, I think Chelsea are looking to change the old nucleus we had, what with myself, Ashley [Cole], Didier [Drogba] and Petr [Cech] gone, John’s almost the last one standing. But I don’t think he’s going to be an issue with that – he’ll even help the transition with helping the younger players.”

Even given Terry’s dicey at times off-field reputation, there’s merit to that story (After all, you can’t be okay with Ryan Giggs guiding the youth of Manchester and opposed to Terry leading at the Bridge).

As for MLS, plenty of England’s old guard is here already. From the 2010 World Cup roster alone, Ashley Cole and Steven Gerrard are in L.A., Lampard’s in New York City, and Shaun Wright-Phillips is with RBNY. That’s already half the number of U.S. players in MLS who played in the 2010 tournament.

Former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke hit with 12-year ban

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 24:  FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke listens to questions during the Post-meeting of Organising Committee for the FIFA World Cup press conference ahead of the preliminary draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at Konstantin Palace on July 24, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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Another member of FIFA’s embattled corps has learned his punishment for egregious ethics violations.

Jerome Valcke, the longtime secretary general of football’s governing body, is going to be away from the game for 12 years, banned from the sport by FIFA’s independent ethics committee.

[ MORE: Hiddink comments on USMNT’s Miazga, center back crisis ]

The 12 years are less than a lifetime but more than the recommended nine years. Valcke was dismissed from his post in January.

From the BBC:

The decision has been made by Fifa’s independent ethics committee following allegations of potential misconduct related to sales of World Cup tickets.

During the investigations, several other acts of potential misconduct arose, including travel expenses policies and regulations.

Valcke’s ban is four years longer than the ones issued to Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini.

Allardyce on using USMNT’s inexperienced Yedlin at RB: “It’s a massive ask”

during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Sunderland at Anfield on February 6, 2016 in Liverpool, England.
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Sam Allardyce knows a relegation battle when he sees one, and even an injury crisis has him nervous about using inexperienced USMNT right back DeAndre Yedlin.

The speedy American wingback is on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, and Sunderland’s table position has its manager wondering if he can afford to use the 22-year-old.

[ MORE: Hiddink comments on USMNT’s Miazga, center back crisis ]

Billy Jones is injured, and the Black Cats did not firm up their right back depth in the transfer window. Ex-Celtic back Adam Matthews is among the other options, and played 150 times for the Bhoys.

And Yedlin had just 56 professional appearances and was less than three years removed from two years at Akron when he moved to London.

From the Sunderland Echo:

“We’ve got Billy who has a lot of experience, and obviously we’ve got DeAndre, who has very little experience at this level.

“DeAndre has a lot of qualities, but without that experience, it’s a massive ask to perform at the consistent level that you need to at this stage of the season, particularly with the pressure we’re all under.”

You have to love that following his train of thought would continue with, “but we don’t have any better options, so let’s see what happens!” It’s not quite Guus Hiddink saying of Chelsea youth like Matt Miazga, “We have no fear of bringing youngsters in“, but Allardyce is right in saying the relegation plight is a different pressure than Chelsea’s much safer spot.

This is a big chance — and a big ask — for Yedlin, who replaced Jones in last week’s comeback draw with Liverpool and has only seen Spurs improve since he went on loan. How has Yedlin fared this season? In terms of overall stats, he hasn’t been very good at all, though advanced stats site Squawka says he is slightly better than Jones.

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But in terms of straight-up defending, the USMNT man has done the job a lot better.

Sunderland Yedlin

It would be classic Big Sam to improve his lot in the Premier League safety race because injury forced him to remove Jones.

Go get ’em, kid.

Hiddink on Zouma absence: “We have no fear of bringing youngsters in”

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Chelsea hosts Newcastle United this weekend, its first game since the season-ending injury to young defender Kurt Zouma.

The 21-year-old Frenchman has arguably been Chelsea’s best center back when it comes to marking and defending this season, and manager Guus Hiddink has to find an alternative for the big man.

[ MORE: Klopp updates Sturridge, Coutinho fitness; Backs owners ]

While Gary Cahill and John Terry have the familiar names of the bunch, Hiddink won’t limit himself to veteran replacements. Certainly he could slide Cesar Azpilicueta inside, though that would sacrifice about a half-foot, and Newcastle likes to use big striker Aleksandar Mitrovic.

He also has 20-year-old USMNT back Matt Miazga — who’s been given squad No. 20 — and said the following in Friday’s pre-match press conference:

“We have no fear of bringing youngsters in.”

Could we see Miazga in the fold on Saturday? Hiddink’s comments sure sound like he’d rather not, but all it takes is an injury or an inkling.

Miazga gave an interview to Chelsea’s web site last weekend where he described his play.

From ChelseaFC.com:

“I really like it, it is a higher level, the ball moves much faster but yeah, it is good. All the guys are very welcoming and I am really enjoying it.

“My game is definitely built on winning aerial challenges and tackles. As a centre-back you have to have an aerial presence and win a lot of headers, and my job is to win duels and not let opponents score, so every time I try to get a good tackle in and make my opponent know that I am there and it is not going to be an easy time trying to go by me.”

The ball moves much faster, and we’re hoping to see Miazga move with it sooner rather than later. Will it be this weekend.