Italy: Napoli gets best of Inter on Mazzarri’s return; Juventus extends win streak to eight

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Perhaps there was no better way for Walter Mazzarri to return to the San Paulo than with a five-goal first half, his new side, Inter Milan, closing their gap to one on Napoli after Yuto Nagatomo scored just before half time. With two of the top three attacks in Serie A meeting in Naples, we should have expected as much, but with the Nerazzuri boss’s time with the Partenopei remembered for its style and approach as much as its results, it was only appropriate that fireworks accompany the return of a man who bossed Napoli for the last four seasons.

Thankfully for the San Paulo faithful, those fireworks went Napoli’s way. In the ninth minute, Gonzalo Higuaín opened the scoring, giving the hosts a lead they’d hold until Esteban Cambiasso’s 35th minute equalizer. Goals by Dries Mertens and Blerim Dzemaili had Rafa Benítez’s side up two by the 41st minute, a lead the Neapolitans would never relinquish. With both defenses finding their footing in the second half, only José Callejón’s insurance would follow Nagatomo’s goal, and that only came after Ricky Alvarez was shown a second yellow card. Goran Pandev had a chance to give Napoli a fifth in stoppage time, but Samir Handanovic’s save on the Macedonian’s penalty try kept Inter within two.

Though Mazzarri applauded the Curva Sud’s support post match, the former Napoli boss was still embittered at the result. Claiming his team mostly dominated (though they were out-shot 13-9, 9-5 in shots on goal), the 52-year-old criticized referee Paolo Tagliavento for his dismissal of Alvarez, noting the official also gave a controversial penalty in Inter’s loss earlier this season to Roma. Had Inter stayed at 11 men, Mazzarri felt, their attacking play would have eventually pulled back Dzemaili’s goal. Instead, Napoli handed the Nerazzurri their second loss of the season.

After their mid-week disappointment — a 2-0 win over Arsenal unable to prevent Napoli’s fall into Europa League — Sunday’s was a welcome pick me up. That it came against Mazzarri will only add a sense of perspective for a fan base that’s seen their team transformed from a group of en vogue swashbucklers to a more conventional yet equally potent side. After Sunday’s win, only Mazzarri’s team has scored more league goals (36, compared to Napoli’s 35), while the partenopei persist near the top of the league. Considering Edinson Cavani, Hugo Campagnaro, and Morgan de Sanctis all left this summer, things could certainly be worse.

Now, with their owner having already scoffed at the importance of Europa League, Napoli can focus on Serie A. After Sunday’s results, they’re eight back of Juventus but only two short of Roma (who play Monday). A few more performances like Sunday’s, and Napoli may yet catch the Giallorossi
and replicate the finish Mazzarri delivered last season.

source:  Three from Tévez temporarily put Juventus six clear

While Italy was still trying to figure out how its champions ended up in Europa League, Juventus were busy taking out their frustrations on Sassuolo, a process that didn’t take long to reap rewards. Fifteen minutes in, Carlos Tévez scored the first of his three goals, with Federico Peluso doubling the Bianconeri  league 13 minutes later. Tévez added his third shortly before halftime before completing this first Serie A hat trick in the 68th minute, helping Juventus to their eighth straight league win, 4-0.

It was also the defending champions’ eight-straight shutout, a clean sheet kept in what’s become typically strangling fashion. Sassuolo, a team that’s averaging over a goal per game despite battling relegation, were held without a shot on goal, though they did have 12 attempts overall. Juventus, on the other hand, forced four saves from Gianluca Pegolo beyond the four tries the Sassuolo keeper couldn’t stop.

Like his team, Tévez had been criticized after Juventus’s Champions League exit, the summer signing for Manchester City going scoreless in six group stage matches. On Sunday, the Argentine hit double-digit league goals, putting him on pace for just under 24 goals on the season.

At the same time, Tévez pushed Juve’s league atop the table to six point, with Roma set to visit Milan on Monday.

Elsewhere

  • Catania 0, Hellas Verona 0 – Out-played throughout, Hellas escaped with a draw despite being outshot 16-8 and putting only one attempt on target. Catania stay at the bottom of the table while Verona miss their chance to pull even with fifth place Inter.
  • Lazio 2, Livorno 0 – A first half brace from Miroslav Klose doubled the German striker’s season goal total, Livorno limited to one shot on goal as Lazio won in league for the first time since Oct. 27.
  • Genoa 1, Atalanta 1 – Guiseppe De Luca’s 94th minute goal stole two points from Genoa, who’d protected Andrea Bertolacci’s opener through the last 18 minutes of regulation time only to see their sixth win of the year snatched just before the final whistle.
  • Udinese 0, Torino 2 – A scoreless game at halftime turned the visitors’ way when Alexander Farnerud broke through in the 48th minute, with Ciro Immobile’s sixth goal of the season giving Torino insurance in the 75th minute.
  • Parma 0, Cagliari 0 –  Antonio Cassano, Nicola Sansone, and Jonathan Biabiany are held to one shot on goal combined as Cagliari slowed down the Gialloblu to take a point from the Ennio Tardini.
  • Chievo 0, Sampdoria 1 – Still undefeated since Sinisa Milhajlovic’s return, Sampdoria snatched three points from the Flying Donkeys after Éder’s 16th minute goal sent the visitors to their fourth win of the season.

Monday: Milan vs. Roma.

Report: Sporting KC on verge of signing French midfielder Croizet

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Sporting Kansas City could be adding some European flair to its midfield this offseason.

According to multiple reports, the MLS club is in negotiations to sign French midfielder Yohan Croizet, who currently plays for Belgian first division side KV Mechelen. Croizet, who reportedly cost Mechelen a transfer fee worth more than $1 million, has started all 15 games he’s played for his side this season but has been substituted off on seven occasions and Mechelen are currently struggling in the league, sitting in 13th place with 18 points from 18 games.

Croizet hasn’t played since November 17, and appears on his way out.

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Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes, a Hungarian-American, is no stranger to the European market and has brought over plenty of diamonds in the rough from Europe to star with Sporting KC. Some previous examples, though in different positions from Croizet, include current winger Gerso, Krisztián Németh, Uri Rosell, and Aurelien Collin.

It will be interesting to see where Croizet plays in the Sporting KC side should it sign him, and how he works with Benny Feilhaber, who is turning 33-years old in January.

Arsenal lands Ostersunds in Europa League draw

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Arsenal will face a team with an English connection in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32.

The Gunners were paired with Swedish side Ostersunds in the Europa League knockout stage draw Monday, with matches set to be played on February 15 and February 22. Ostersund are managed by Englishman Graham Potter, who played in the Championship and lower in England before starting his managerial career with Ostersunds in 2010 in the fourth tier of Swedish soccer.

[READ: UCL draw+analysis]

Ostersunds surprised many earlier this year winning the Swedish Cup to qualify for the Europa League, and then advanced out of a group that included Hertha Berlin and Athletic Bilbao.

It represents an interesting draw for Arsenal, which will have to balance the squad during a tough February. The weekend prior to the first-leg match is the second leg of the North London derby against Tottenham, and following the second match with Ostersunds is a showdown with Manchester City.

Here’s a look at how the rest of the draw shook out:

Champions League last 16 draw sets up huge clashes

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The Round of 16 draw for the UEFA Champions League did not disappoint.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

We have some monster clashes with Chelsea facing Barcelona, once again, and the reigning champs Real Madrid paired with the favorites Paris Saint-Germain.

With five Premier League teams remaining, Tottenham have been handed a tough draw against Italian champions Juventus who were also runners up in the UCL last season, while Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool will all be rather happy with their draws.

United have been drawn against Spanish side Sevilla, Liverpool will face FC Porto and Man City clash with Basel.

Below is the draw in full, while UEFA has also released the schedule for the games with Man City, Spurs, Liverpool and Man United all playing their second legs at home.


Report: Whitecaps teen sensation Davies could have Man United trial

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The 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup saw a lot of young faces in competition, and one name that really seemed to stick came from Canada’s national team.

[ MORE: Five players LA FC should consider selecting in MLS Expansion Draft ]

Vancouver Whitecaps attacker Alphonso Davies has been doing it for both club and country since making his Major League Soccer debut in 2016, and now the young Canada international could be making a massive leap.

According to CTV Edmonton, the 17-year-old has been contacted by Premier League side Manchester United for a trial in January.

Davies would need clearance from the Whitecaps to join the Red Devils to train, however, with it being MLS’ offseason it’s hard to imagine the Cascadia club not allowing the former Edmonton Strikers player to seize the opportunity.

In 2017, Davies appeared in 26 matches for the Whitecaps and registered one assist for Carl Robinson’s side.

Davies has already become a regular with the Canada national team, after previously receiving call ups from the Under-15, U-18 and U-20 teams.