Italy roundup: One-sided Derby d’Italia puts Juventus back in the win column

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Walter Mazzarri thought his team looked “sluggish” and “lazy” on Sunday. Juventus has a way of doing that to you. Still, having drawn with Italy’s leaders early this season at the San Siro, Inter Milan’s boss has reason to hope the Nerazzurri would give provide more resistance in the season’s second Derby d’Italia. Perhaps last weekend’s end to Juventus’s 12-match winning streak could be the first part of a steep fall to earth.

Apparently not. After drawing last week at Lazio, Juventus were back to their old, overwhelming selves against their rivals, with goals from Stephane Leichsteiner, Giorgio Chiellini, and Arturo Vidal (11th of the season) leaving the Bianconeri up three in the 57th minutes. Rolando would put home a consolation goal in the 71st minute, but by then Inter hopes of staunching their wounds had faded. Winners of only one of their last 10, Mazzarri’s side was out-classed by Juventus, who claimed a 3-1 victory.

The result pushed Antonio Conte’s team nine clear of second place Roma, who had their match against Parma rained out. Given Juve’s widely considered locks to claim their third title, the more interesting effects concern Inter. Seemingly in a free fall since beating Livorno in early November, the Nerazzurri have given fifth place back to Hellas Verona despite Verona having just snapped their own three-match losing streak (with a 2-1 win a Sassuolo). Tied on points with seventh-place Torino, Inter are now in danger of missing out on European soccer for a second straight season.

They have their excuses, especially given Sunday’s team. Esteban Cambiasso was missing from midfield, out two weeks with an injury. New signing Hernanes wasn’t available. Fredy Guarin looks destined for four months in limbo after failing to move in the transfer window, while Diego Milito and Andrea Ranocchia are no longer starters (Milito hampered by injuries). Talents like Hugo Campagnaro, Yuto Nagatomo, and Samir Handanovic could be key parts of a Champions League-caliber team, but at other places in Mazzarri’s starting XI, the team doesn’t look much better than the side Andrea Stramaccioni allowed to drift to ninth last season.

“This game was very simple tactically,” Mazzarri said after Sunday’s loss. “[T]here were duels all over the pitch. In those situations the players most accustomed to being at the top and to winning will win the duels.”

Inter hasn’t been used to being at the top since the last days of José Mourinho. Now their character maybe more like last year’s mid-table side than a team that won the treble four years ago.

Their winter slide could be a slump, but it could also be Inter’s regression to the mean. Although their first meeting with Juventus hinted Mazzarri was capable of engineering a quick turnaround, the season’s second Derby d’Italia painted a much different picture. Mazzarri is going to have to quickly (and successfully) integrate Hernanes if Inter’s going to return to Europe.

Elsewhere in Italy

  • Cagliari 1, Fiorentina 0 – La Viola had a chance to take advantage of a struggling Napoli, but thanks to Mauricio Pinella’s first half penalty kick (a chance given by Facundo Roncaglia) and an inability to generate more than three shots on goal, Vincenzo Montella’s team stays three points back of Italy’s last Champions League spot.
  • Bologna 0, Udinese 2– Toto Di Natale and Nico López goals help end Udinese’s four-match losing streak, lifting the Coppa semifinalists six points clear of the drop.
  • AC Milan 1, Torino 1 – Clarence Seedorf’s team still can’t convert possession into goals. Despite holding 62 percent of the ball and outshooting their guests 23-6, Milan couldn’t build on Adil Rami’s 49th minute equalizer.
  • Chievo 0, Lazio 2 – Edy Reja keeps his team climbing up the table, with the Aquile successfully responding to Hernanes’ departure with goals from Antonio Candreva and Keita.
  • Catania 3, Livorno 3 – Two Innocent Emeghara goals and three Livorno leads weren’t enough to put away the league’s bottom dwellers, with goals from Gonzalo Bergessio, Pablo Barrientos, and Sergio Almirón giving Catania their 15th point of the season.
  • Atalanta 3, Napoli 0 – The weekend’s surprise result saw a series of partenopei errors give German Denis two goals and Maxi Moralez Atalanta’s third. While it was aberrational, the result was also Napoil’s worst of the year, one that leaves Rafa Benítez’s side 15 points back of league-leading Juventus.
  • Sassuolo 1, Verona 2 – Luca Toni sealed the game in the 86th minute, providing what appeared to be insurance for an opening own goal from Thomas Manfredini. When Antonio Floro Flores scored in stoppage time, Toni’s goal proved the winner, driving Hellas Verona fifth.

Standings

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Juventus 22 19 2 1 54 16 38 11-0-0 8-2-1 59
Roma 21 15 5 1 45 11 34 9-2-0 6-3-1 50
Napoli 22 13 5 4 44 26 18 7-3-1 6-2-3 44
Fiorentina 22 12 5 5 40 24 16 6-3-1 6-2-4 41
Verona 22 11 2 9 37 35 2 8-0-3 3-2-6 35
Inter Milan 22 8 9 5 39 27 12 5-5-1 3-4-4 33
Torino 22 8 9 5 35 28 7 5-5-1 3-4-4 33
Parma 21 8 8 5 32 27 5 5-4-2 3-4-3 32
Lazio 22 8 7 7 29 29 0 6-2-2 2-5-5 31
AC Milan 22 7 8 7 35 32 3 5-4-2 2-4-5 29
Genoa 21 7 6 8 23 27 -4 5-3-2 2-3-6 27
Atalanta 22 8 3 11 24 30 -6 7-2-2 1-1-9 27
Cagliari 22 5 9 8 21 31 -10 5-4-3 0-5-5 24
Udinese 22 7 2 13 22 32 -10 4-1-5 3-1-8 23
Sampdoria 21 5 7 9 25 32 -7 3-4-4 2-3-5 22
Chievo 22 4 6 12 16 29 -13 2-2-7 2-4-5 18
Bologna 22 3 9 10 20 38 -18 2-6-4 1-3-6 18
Livorno 22 4 5 13 22 40 -18 3-3-5 1-2-8 17
Sassuolo 22 4 5 13 23 48 -25 3-1-7 1-4-6 17
Catania 22 3 6 13 16 40 -24 3-5-3 0-1-10 15

Lukaku rejects big comparisons: “I can’t say I’m in my prime”

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Romelu Lukaku has bagged a bunch of goals and played on three Premier League teams, but knows there’s another level to his game as he opens up life at Manchester United.

Rejecting comparisons to big strikers like Didier Drogba (because they’re different style players) and Robert Lewandowski (because he’s not yet at that level), Lukaku gave his thoughts about his career’s next steps.

[ MORE: Q&A with Edin Dzeko ]

Lukaku didn’t score in the PL for Chelsea, but has a 17-goal campaign on loan to West Bromwich Albion as well as 15-, 10-, 18-, and 25-goal seasons for Everton.

From Sky Sports:

“I’m 24 years of age, I cannot say I am the complete package, I can’t say I’m in my prime.

“There is still a lot of work to be done and I am delighted there is still a lot of work to be done. That means I can become even better than I am now.”

Lukaku most needs consistency in his game. Even in his massive campaign last season, he twice went four matches without a goal. While it’s possible to have fine performances but not find finish, Everton went 1W-3D-4L in those combined stretches and five of those matches were against bottom half sides.

Something tells us having Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Marcus Rashford setting him up could help, too.

Q&A: Edin Dzeko on Roma, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Champions League

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PST spoke to a quartet of AS Roma players this week as the club contends the 2017 International Champions Cup in the United States with the aim of a profile piece on i Lupi captain Daniele De Rossi’s quest for an elusive scudetto.

That piece came out well, but the conversations with some of his teammates were just as fun. While Kevin Strootman’s resilience and Hector Moreno’s Mexican ambassador status neatly fit into individual posts, our talk with ex-Man City striker and reigning Capocannoniere winner Edin Dzeko works better in Q&A form.

[ MORE: How will Chicharito slot in at West Ham? ]

Plenty has changed since Dzeko scored in Man City’s wild title-clinching finish against QPR. Dzeko talked about his surprising and explosive 29-goal Serie A season, his interest in a UEFA Champions League return to the Etihad Stadium, and a love for representing his home nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Enjoy.

PST: Obviously we know your quality from having scored 25-plus goals three times in seasons at Wolfsburg and Manchester City, but what was it like going from 10 goals to 39 in your second season at Roma?

Edin Dzeko: “It was definitely one of the best in my career. When you get up in your years you are supposed to go down, but actually I’ve gone up. I felt good and from the beginning of preseason I trained hard and it was an important season after getting to know the qualities of the teams and players in the league after my first season in Italy. Last year was big proof of it and like it always is, it was harder than it looked.”

PST: You’ve won the Bundesliga and the Premier League, the latter twice. Last season you shaved Juventus’ table advantage to four points. Can this be the year?

Dzeko: “I have hope that I can do the same in Italy. It’s definitely not easy with Juventus having it the last few years and not selling, only buying new players. Last season was really good for us. We were very close but we still dropped some easy points against the small teams and that cost us at the end. Next year we play Champions League. We changed coaches and a few players left and others came so we have to gather up to the new style of the coach and the new players have to learn what it is to play in Italy. Hopefully this season can be better than last, but we have to go step-by-step.”

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

PST: Wolfsburg had never won, and Man City hadn’t in 40-plus years. Can those experiences help in pushing Roma to its first scudetto since 2001?

Dzeko: “Hopefully. Also when I went to City and we won the first and second title, the team was probably was one of the best in England where it’s also not so easy to win the title. I have another three years contract in Rome and this town and these fans deserve a title. It’s such a shame, every year without a title for this club.”

PST: What would it mean?

Dzeko: “It would mean everything. Hopefully we will manage to do this in the next few years, but it would mean everything to them. I’d habe a lot of good feelings if Roma would manage to win the title. It would be amazing for all the players. They will love us and never forget. The people in Rome, they live for football. They live for us.”

PST: Hector Moreno mentioned that hunger in training was evident in just the few days he’s been there.

Dzeko: “You have to be hungry for good things because it’s a new young team, a new coach, and the team is step-by-step building itself in new directions. We lost four, five players from last seasons so it’s never easy to bring seven, eight new players and immediately work it out. So this preseason is important.”

(Photo by Marco Rosi/Getty Images)

PST: You’re Bosnia and Herzegovina’s all-time leading scorer, and you seem to relish international breaks and pulling on the shirt. 

Dzeko: “I’m proud of myself for what I’ve achieved because I remember when I was young and I was looking to the players, my idols, who were playing with Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s something special, we can take it to heart and I’m proud that I can be the idol of some young boys in Bosnia that can still believe they can do some good things and positive stuff in the future. When someone from our small country goes out and plays in a league like Italy, it gives the confidence for the rest of the young people that they can know that everything is possible.”

PST: You’re also pretty active in causes around Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Dzeko: “It’s important for me because it’s my country, it’s the country that gave me everything, where I grew up for 18 years before I left for Czech Republic first and then Germany, England, Italy. I want to help the people who need help because I have the possibility to do it. I will always be there for them and I’m also the UNICEF ambassador that makes me even more proud because I love kids.”

PST: Finally, Roma is in a different pot than Manchester City for this year’s UEFA Champions League. Would you like to be drawn with your old team, or prefer the clubs stay separate?

Dzeko: “I would love it, to be fair. I would love to go back there and even against City I bring so many good memories from the beautiful days and my connection with the fans and club. I would definitely look forward to it.”

Reports: Swans rebuff Everton bid for Sigurdsson; want $65M

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What’s $7-13 million amongst peers?

Swansea City has reportedly shot down either a $52 and/or a $58 million Everton bid for Gylfi Sigurdsson, offers that falls shy of Swans’ $65 million asking price.

$65 million? Why that’s almost Benjamin Mendy money.

Either way, with Sigurdsson absent from Swansea’s U.S. tour, a move seems predetermined.

[ SERIE A: Can De Rossi help Roma catch Juve? ]

The BBC says Monday’s offer was the $52m price, and that it was Everton’s first offer, though The Guardian says it’s a second $58m bid from Everton for the Icelandic playmaker who almost single-handedly ensured the Welsh side’s Premier League status last season.

Reports of an initial $52 million bid also came earlier this month.

Sigurdsson, 27, scored nine goals last season and teamed with Fernando Llorente to form a potent duo. He first made his PL impression with seven goals during a half-season loan from Hoffenheim, and moved to Spurs for a tumultuous two seasons.

He’s since recorded seven-, 11-, and 9-goal seasons for Swans.

Everton has spent big this summer and look set to have the depth to compete in both the Premier League and UEFA Europa League.

VIDEO: Chicharito talks West Ham signing, opener at Manchester United

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Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez is back in the Premier League, and will debut for his new club at the home of his old club.

The league schedulers didn’t know the Mexican striker would be a member of West Ham United on Opening Day, but nonetheless have the first weekend ending with an 11 a.m. ET kickoff between the Irons and Red Devils of Manchester United at Old Trafford.

[ MORE: How will Chicharito slot in at West Ham? ]

Combine a new home with an old haunt, and you’ve got one fired up Little Pea:

“A little bit more than my teammates probably, of course to be back to Old Trafford to start this adventure this season with my new team. It’s gonna be a very important one and I’m going to be very happy to be there.”

Hear more from the latest West Ham buy below: