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

Report: Chicharito talks heating up with Los Angeles FC

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
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We’ve seen MLS teams make major splashes in the past, and one of next year’s newcomers could be a really big draw if they can manage to seal the deal on a Mexican international.

[ MORE: Schweinsteiger shares thoughts on MLS and more in interview ]

According to Metro New York, Los Angeles FC is continuing its talks with Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez about a potential deal that would prove massive in terms of MLS spending.

While LAFC won’t debut in MLS until 2018, the club could potentially make the Mexico striker the highest-paid player in league history with an average salary of roughly $10 million.

The 28-year-old Hernandez currently plays in Germany with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen, where he’s plied his trade since joining the club during the 2015/16 season.

Additionally, the former Manchester United man has dominated the international scene for El Tri, scoring 46 goals in 90 appearances for the CONCACAF nation.

Report: Bayern Munich scouted Walker, Alexis this weekend

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German publication Kicker says Bayern Munich technical director Michael Reschke attended both of this weekend’s FA Cup semifinals and had his eye on two players in particular.

Reschke apparently wants to bring players from both North London Derby rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur to the Allianz Arena.

[ MORE: Liverpool’s Top Four plight ]

In the case of Spurs, that man is right back Kyle Walker. The 26-year-old has also played right mid in 8 of his 35 matches for Tottenham this season, and was named in the PFA Team of the Year. It’s hard to believe Spurs would have interest in selling Walker, who would help fill the role of retiring Philipp Lahm.

On the other side is Alexis Sanchez, the embattled but electric Arsenal attacker who Arsene Wenger described as an “animal” and “always ready to kill the opponent” this weekend. Wenger says Sanchez isn’t going anywhere, but Bayern does boast Chilean teammate Arturo Vidal and former Barca mate Thiago Alcantara.

Walker is signed at Spurs through 2021, while Sanchez’s contract ends after next season.

Roma lands sporting director Monchi, a reported Arsenal target

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AS Roma has found its new sporting director, and it’s a man with a keen eye for talent.

Ramon “Monchi” Rodriguez Verdejo, 48, has spent the last 18 years as the sporting director at Sevilla, which won five UEFA Europa League titles under his watch.

Monchi was discussed in the media as a target for the same job at Arsenal and was a target for other Premier League clubs, but Roma sealed the deal with the former goalkeeper.

[ JPW: Oriol Romeu — The Perfectly Poised Destroyer ]

He is considered to have a big role in discovering and developing Sergio Ramos, Jesus Navas, and Dani Alves.

Read more from ASRoma.com.

Liverpool’s murky Top Four path depends on Manchester United

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Liverpool is a historic club with incredible presence. Jurgen Klopp is a celebrated manager with a strong reputation as a players’ coach.

Those two facets will always make the club attractive to players. Missing out on the UEFA Champions League is another thing altogether and would put a huge dent in Klopp’s ambitious recruitment goals.

And right now, the Reds look destined to drop out of the Top Four.

[ JPW: Oriol Romeu — The Perfectly Poised Destroyer ]

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Chelsea 32 24 3 5 65 27 38 13-0-2 11-3-3 75
 Tottenham Hotspur 32 21 8 3 68 22 46 15-2-0 6-6-3 71
 Liverpool 34 19 9 6 70 42 28 11-4-2 8-5-4 66
 Manchester City 32 19 7 6 63 35 28 8-6-1 11-1-5 64
 Manchester United 32 17 12 3 50 24 26 7-9-1 10-3-2 63
 Everton 34 16 10 8 60 37 23 12-4-1 4-6-7 58
 Arsenal 31 17 6 8 63 40 23 10-3-2 7-3-6 57

Even if Manchester United and Manchester City draw Thursday’s derby, both will be poised to pass the Reds by winning the match-in-hand.

Injury-ravaged United is bothered by UEFA Europa League duty against Celta Vigo, and has a brutal run-in that includes Spurs and Arsenal in addition to City. Liverpool has to hope United falls off, because Man City is likely going to walk over the Top Four line even with a draw in the derby.

The worst case scenario for Liverpool, aside from continuing to flail against clubs outside the Top Seven, is United toppling City on Thursday.

As an aside, it’s extremely unlikely that Arsenal leaps into the fray but if the Gunners did it would come at the expense of United.

Really, Liverpool’s run-in is perfectly built for two of its supporters’ favorite things: Winning matches and rooting against Manchester United. Here’s how they finish:

May 1 — at Watford
May 7 — vs. Southampton
May 14 — at West Ham United
May 21 — vs. Middlesbrough

Liverpool battered Watford 6-1 at Anfield and Boro 3-0 at the Riverside Stadium, but drew both Saints and West Ham earlier this season in addition to losing to Southampton in an EFL Cup semifinal.

Say the Reds nab a perfect 12 points to finish with 78; They’ll need City to take less than 14 from six remaining matches and United to earn less than 15 from six. The latter is far more likely than the former, but will matter very little if Klopp can’t motivate and organize his men in the final four matches.