Gervinho goal gives Roma redemption, sees Juventus out of Coppa Italia

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Clearly deprioritizing Coppa Italia, Juventus head coach Antonio Conte made six changes to his starting XI for today’s quarterfinal at the Stadio Olimpico, leaving the likes of Carlos Tévez, Fernando Llorente, Paul Pogba and Gianluigi Buffon out of the lineup for the Old Lady’s second meeting of the month with high-powered Roma. Unfortunately for Conte, Rudi Garcia did not take the competition as lightly, an approach that paid off when Gervinho’s 79th minute goal gave Roma a 1-0 win, launching the Giallorossi into the tournament’s semifinals.

There, last year’s finalists will face the winner of next week’s match between Napoli and Lazio, potentially setting up a rematch of May’s final between the two Rome rivals. Until then, however, Roma can enjoy their small piece of redemption. Having lost to Juventus 4-0 earlier this month, Roma get the pleasure of seeing Italy’s leaders out of the country’s cup competition, even if the victory does nothing for the eight point gap that separates the clubs at the top of Serie A.

In Coppa, however, Roma become favorites to lift the trophy, being the highest-placed team remaining in the competition. Third place Napoli are also alive, as are Fiorentina (hosting Siena, Thursday) and Milan (hosting Udinese, Wednesday).

On Tuesday, the match was largely Roma’s, the home side out-shooting their opposition 8-1 in the first half while having more of the ball. Given how Juventus beat the Giallorossi two weeks ago, however, there was still an underlying tension to the game. When would Juventus pounce at Garcia’s side, potentially using Roma’s control to their advantage?

That moment appeared to come just after halftime when Mauricio Isla’s cross from the right found Federico Peluso at the far post, with the Juventus wing back apparently heading the visitors in front. The cross, however, was judged to have curved across the end line before coming back into play, with the officials awarding a goal kick.

It was the closest Juventus came to a shot on target all night, with Roma’s edge in play persisting into the second half. In the 79th minute, that advantage finally translated onto the scoresheet, thanks in part to Miralem Pjanic. The Bosnian international drew the defense toward him at the edge of the penalty area before playing the ball left toward the byline. Kevin Strootman tracked it down before the ball went out of play, cutting a cross back for Gervinho at the near post. The Ivory Coast international’s stab at the drilled pass punched the ball past Marco Storari, giving Roma the game’s only goal.

Come full-time, Roma’s players embraced each other, clearly cognizant of the redemption they’d earned. It was only the fourth time in 28 games Juventus has lost this season, with two of those defeats coming in Champions League. It was the first time the Bianconeri had lost to an Italian team since their Oct. 20 trip to Fiorentina.

Conte’s selection played a large part, but those are the realities of balancing league and cup competition. On Tuesday, Garcia’s management of his squad helped push Roma into Coppa’s final four. Juventus’s reserves, unable to force a save from Morgan de Sanctis, helped see their club out.

Arsenal finishes atop UEL group despite defeat to Cologne

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The Gunners didn’t take care of business on Thursday in Germany, but luckily they got some help from two of their other Group H counterparts.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks, video previews ]

Cologne defeated Arsenal, 1-0, at the RheinEnergieStadion, but Red Star Belgrade and BATE Borisov ended in a scoreless draw to give Arsene Wenger‘s side the top spot in the group.

The difference on the day proved to be Sehrou Guirassy’s penalty kick, which came in the 62nd minute after he had been taken down by Matthieu Debuchy a moment prior.

Arsenal were forced back early on by the hosts, with Jhon Cordoba nearly breaking the deadlock inside the opening five minutes.

Meanwhile, the Gunners struggled to break down Cologne’s defense throughout the encounter, despite having an overwhelming amount of possession.

Arsenal will close out Group H play on Dec. 7 against BATE, while Cologne battles Red Star Belgrade for a shot at reaching the Round of 32.

Report: Earthquakes to name Mikael Stahre as new manager

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The San Jose Earthquakes are prepared to hire a new manager, leaving Chris Leitch’s status with the club unknown moving forward.

[ MORE: Michael Bradley issues strong views on Crew’s potential relocation ]

ESPN FC is reporting that the Major League Soccer side will hire Swedish coach Mikael Stahre in the coming days, replacing Leitch. The story was first reported by Swedish outlet Expressen.

The 42-year-old has primarily spent his managerial career in Sweden, but has also coached teams in Greece and China.

The Earthquakes qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2012 this season under Leitch, but were bounced in the first round by the Vancouver Whitecaps — 5-0.

Leitch, who formerly played for the Earthquakes in his MLS-playing days, finished 2017 as both the manager and technical director for the Western Conference club.

Pending Stahre’s hire, the Quakes will be on their third coach in a span of roughly five months after Dominic Kinnear had been previously fired by the team back in June.

Study to look at long-term health risks of playing soccer

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LONDON (AP) A major study into whether soccer players are at risk of degenerative brain disease has been commissioned amid concerns that the sport’s authorities in England haven’t done enough to tackle the issue.

The Football Association and Professional Footballers’ Association have appointed a research team, based in Scotland, to undertake a study entitled “Football’s Influence on Lifelong Health and Dementia Risk” from January 2018.

FA chief executive Martin Glenn said it will be “one of the most comprehensive studies ever commissioned into the long-term health of former footballers” because “we feel compelled … to fully understand if there are any potential risks associated with playing the game.”

Researchers will address the question: “Is the incidence of degenerative neurocognitive disease more common in ex-professional footballers than in the normal population?”

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks, video previews

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Ready for Week 13 in the Premier League? Let’s do this.

[ 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. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

[ 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.

Click play on the videos below for quick previews on each game complete with a score prediction from yours truly.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Huddersfield vs. Manchester City – (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Manchester United vs. Brighton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Tottenham vs. West Brom (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

Burnley vs. Arsenal (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

Swansea City vs. Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Southampton vs. Everton – (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Crystal Palace vs. Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

 

Newcastle United vs. Watford – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

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

Liverpool vs. Chelsea – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM

West Ham vs. Leicester – (Friday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]