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.

Mourinho: Van Gaal left good team, but I brought belief

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Jose Mourinho and Manchester United are bringing happiness to the Liberty Stadium on Sunday, or at least more of it.

The United boss says the club’s turnaround is emotionally-based, and that the cupboard certainly wasn’t bare when he took over the Red Devils last summer.

[ MORE: Fellaini red  had “a bit of acting” ]

United finished fifth in the Premier League last season, tied for fourth with Man City and 15 points back of Arsenal. Mourinho’s men sit in the same spot this year, but are in the semifinals of the Europa League, have won the League Cup, and have the door open to the Top Four.

So what’s different? Here’s the boss, from the BBC:

“I think Mr. Van Gaal left a good group of boys with very good relations between them.

“[But] I think they missed happiness, they missed trust, belief, this extra bit that brings resilience, brings fight and they have it [now].”

It’s been a bit of a roller coaster with the Bastian Schweinsteiger and Luke Shaw drama, but — like any new manager — Mourinho did have to sort the club. Now we wonder whether he’ll keep it happy or hit a traditional rut by Year Three (assuming he gets there, and United should be very good next season).

Spurs confirm Wembley as 2017-18 home

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May 14 will indeed be the last time Tottenham Hotspur takes the field at White Hart Lane.

Club chairman Daniel Levy has announced that Spurs will play all of its 2017-18 home matches at Wembley Stadium, and that WHL will be demolished in the offseason.

Spurs have a new venue under construction next door to WHL, calling the venue “the heart” of regeneration plans in the region. From TottenhamHotspur.com:

“This marks a momentous day in our Club’s history as it is the day we formally agreed the demolition of our beloved White Hart Lane.

“The Lane means a huge amount to each and every one of us and we needed to gain greater certainty on the delivery of the new stadium before we made the final decision to commence with the decommissioning of our iconic, historic home for some 118 years.

‘We shall ensure that we give the Lane a fitting farewell when we play our last match here on May 14.”

West Ham’s final match at Upton Park was a memorable one last season, thanks not just to the off-field but the on-field as well. The Irons came back to beat Manchester United 3-2 on a Winston Reid goal.

With Manchester United coincidentally (?) serving as the visitor on May 14, with Top Four if not title implications likely still in play, sign us up for a comfortable seat in front of TV.

Pochettino: Derby matters, but this is about title not “Totteringham”

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Mauricio Pochettino is a focused boss, one many of us wouldn’t mind as our manager.

The longtime Espyanol man knows a thing or two about being relegated to second fiddle in town, with Catalan rivals Barcelona enveloping the spotlight 99 times out of 100.

That’s why he’s not even bothering with treating Arsenal and “St. Totteringham’s Day” — the Gunners’ annual celebration of clinching a spot above Spurs in the standings — like anything than a derby date.

“I really don’t think about which position Arsenal are in. My view and focus is to try to win every game and try to win the Premier League.

“For me (finishing above Arsenal) is not a motivation. The motivation for me is to win because it’s a derby and I know what it means to win a derby. My motivation is to try to win some titles with Tottenham, and my players improve every day and show we are better than the opposition.”

Spurs as a club is growing in big ways, and aiming to sit atop the Premier League standings every year. Yes Premier League derbies are important, but aiming to finish above a rival versus above all rivals is short-sighted. Pochettino’s got it right.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Week 35

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The Premier League games continue to come thick and fast with 10 matches on the slate this weekend.

[ 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.

[ STREAM: Premier League “Goal Rush”

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

West Brom 2-0 Leicester City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Man United 2-0 Swansea City – (Sunday, 7 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Middlesbrough 1-3 Man City – (Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM

Crystal Palace 3-1 Burnley – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Stoke City 2-2 West Ham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal – (Sunday, 11:30 am. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Sunderland 1-2 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM

Southampton 2-1 Hull City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

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

Watford 2-1 Liverpool – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Everton 2-1 Chelsea – (Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM