arturo_vidal

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

Leave a comment

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

Another one: Lavezzi the latest star set for the riches of China

Paris Saint Germain's Ezequiel Lavezzi form Argentina, celebrates the opening goal during a French league one soccer match between Paris-Saint-Germain and Rennes at Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Paris Saint Germain clinhed its second straight French league title on Wednesday after rival Monaco drew 1-1 against French Cup holder Guingamp. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
AP Photo/Michel Euler
Leave a comment

The list just keeps growing; Ezequiel Lavezzi, he of Paris Saint-Germain and Argentine national team fame, is the latest star leaving Europe behind with the Chinese Super League his next stop, according to multiple reports Saturday night.

[ MORE: The latest transfer news and gossip ]

Linked with a move to Premier League side Chelsea during the recently completed January transfer window, a move away from PSG never materialized for the 30-year-old. Not on the European continent, at least.

Now, the former Napoli, San Lorenzo and Estudiantes (Argentina) attacker is set for Shanghai Shenhua, where he’ll reportedly take home something in the $11-to-15-million-per-year ballpark. When you can somehow get a raise from your current deal with a Qatar Sports Investments-owned club… well, I guess you’d be dumb not to do it.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Leicester hammer Man City, Spurs go 2nd ]

It was already pretty well known Lavezzi would be leaving the French capital in 2016, but when his tenure survived through much of Europe’s winter window, it seemed he would hang around until the expiration of his current contract before moving elsewhere on a free transfer.

Then came the monstrous windfall of cash into and subsequent spending by CSL clubs over the last two weeks; Lavezzi joins the likes of Ramires, Gervinho, Jackson Martinez, Alex Teixeira, Demba Ba and Fredy Guarin, among others, to move to China for massive annual salaries. At Shenhua, Lavezzi will play alongside Ba and Guarin, as well as former Everton and New York Red Bulls man Tim Cahill, who made the move to China last year.

The CSL’s transfer window doesn’t close until Feb. 26, so the spending spree may well go on a little while long.

La Liga & Serie A roundup: Atleti bounce back to keep pressure on Barca

Atletico's Jose Maria Gimenez, right, celebrates after scoring a goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Atletico de Madrid and Eibar at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza
Leave a comment

A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights:

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Atletico Madrid 3-1 Eibar

The race for the La Liga title isn’t over quite yet — though Barcelona are overwhelmingly favorites at the moment — and Atletico Madrid will have to keep winning, with just about no room for error, to keep it that way. On Saturday, they did just that by defending their home turf, to the tune of a 3-1 victory over Eibar.

Keko put the visitors ahead in the 46th minute, but Jose Gimenez quickly opened the scoring for Atleti and equalized on 56 minutes. Saul Niguez made it 2-1 to Atleti seven minutes later, and Fernando Torres’ 100th career goal (below video) gave Los Rojiblancos a bit of insurance in the first minute of second-half stoppage time. With the victory, Atleti are level on 51 points with Barca, but the Catalan giants have two games in hand on Madrid’s “other” team, the first of which they’ll play on Sunday.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Rayo Vallecano 2-0 Las Palmas
Athletic Bilbao 0-0 Villarreal
Sporting Gijon 1-1 Deportivo La Coruña

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Levante vs. Barcelona (6 a.m. ET)
Real Betis vs. Valencia (10 a.m. ET)
Celta Vigo vs. Sevilla (12:15 p.m. ET)
Granada vs. Real Madrid (2:30 p.m. ET)


Bologna 1-1 Fiorentina

Fiorentina have left the door wide open for Inter Milan to re-enter the top three — and UEFA Champions League-qualifying — places with a 1-1 draw away to Bologna. The Viola finished the game with 10 men after Matias Fernandez was sent off for two yellow cards 10 minutes apart either side of halftime.

Their opening goal, which gave them the lead in the 59th minute, was beautifully worked and wonderfully taken by Federico Bernardeschi (below video). It was quickly canceled out, though, as Emanuele Giaccherini equalized four minutes later to earn a point and strengthen Bologna’s hold on 10th place in the league table.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Genoa 0-0 Lazio

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Hellas Verona vs. Inter Milan (6:30 a.m. ET)
Napoli vs. Carpi (9 a.m. ET)
Torino vs. Chievo (9 a.m. ET)
Frosinone vs. Juventus (9 a.m. ET)
Sassuolo vs. Palermo (9 a.m. ET)
AC Milan vs. Udinese (9 a.m. ET)
Atalanta vs. Empoli (12 p.m. ET)
Roma vs. Sampdoria (2:45 p.m. ET)

Bundesliga wrap: Bayern held to draw, but Dortmund can’t capitalize

Leverkusen's Javier Hernandez, top, and Bayern's David Alaba challenge for the ball during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich in Leverkusen, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
AP Photo/Martin Meissner
Leave a comment

A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Germany’s top flight…

[ FOLLOW: PST’s Bundesliga coverage ]

Bayer Leverkusen 0-0 Bayern Munich

The race for Bundesliga title could have been blown wide open pried open ever so slightly after Bayern Munich dropped two points away to 5th-place side Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday. It was far from a classic encounter, with just 15 shots managed between the two sides (3 on target). Bayern’s best chance came during the game’s final 10 minutes, when Robert Lewandowski nearly won it very late on.

The hosts’ best chance at pulling off the shock upset came on 53 minutes, when Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez’s volley from 25 yards out flashed just wide of Manuel Neuer’s right-hand post.

Hertha Berlin 0-0 Borussia Dortmund

The above possibility hinged, of course, on the only side within 18 points of Bayern, Borussia Dortmund, taking all three points from their visit to 3rd-place Hertha Berlin. They could not do so, thus remain eight seemingly insurmountable points behind the three-time defending champions.

U.S. national team defender John Brooks, who last week signed a new contract to remain at Hertha, is now one point closer to qualifying for the UEFA Champions League with his hometown club.

Schalke 3-0 Wolfsburg

Right on Hertha’s heels, two points back in fourth, is Schalke, who hammered Wolfsburg on Saturday, thanks to goals scored by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Johannes Geis and Alessandro Schopf. That’s three wins in their last four league games for Schalke, while Hertha have left the door wide open with three straight draws.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga

Borussia Monchengladbach 5-1 Werder Bremen (Friday)
Eintracht Frankfurt 2-4 Stuttgart
Hannover 0-1 Mainz
Ingolstadt 2-1 Augsburg

Sunday’s Bundesliga schedule

Hamburg vs. Koln (9:30 a.m. ET)
Hoffenheim vs. Darmstadt (11:30 a.m. ET)

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Bayern Munich 20 17 2 1 50 9 41 10-0-0 7-2-1 53
Borussia Dortmund 20 14 3 3 52 24 28 8-1-0 6-2-3 45
Hertha BSC Berlin 20 10 5 5 29 21 8 6-3-1 4-2-4 35
FC Schalke 04 20 10 3 7 29 26 3 6-2-3 4-1-4 33
Bayer Leverkusen 20 9 5 6 29 21 8 5-3-2 4-2-4 32
Mönchengladbach 20 10 2 8 40 35 5 7-1-3 3-1-5 32
FSV Mainz 05 20 9 3 8 25 24 1 5-1-4 4-2-4 30
VfL Wolfsburg 20 7 6 7 29 28 1 6-3-1 1-3-6 27
FC Ingolstadt 04 20 7 5 8 14 21 -7 4-2-4 3-3-4 26
1. FC Köln 19 6 7 6 20 25 -5 3-4-3 3-3-3 25
VfB Stuttgart 20 7 3 10 31 41 -10 4-1-5 3-2-5 24
Hamburger SV 19 6 4 9 21 27 -6 2-2-5 4-2-4 22
FC Augsburg 20 5 6 9 22 28 -6 2-3-5 3-3-4 21
Eintracht Frankfurt 20 5 6 9 26 34 -8 3-3-4 2-3-5 21
Darmstadt 19 5 6 8 19 29 -10 1-4-5 4-2-3 21
Werder Bremen 20 5 4 11 24 41 -17 1-2-6 4-2-5 19
1899 Hoffenheim 19 2 8 9 18 28 -10 1-5-3 1-3-6 14
Hannover 96 20 4 2 14 19 35 -16 2-0-8 2-2-6 14

PL Sunday preview: Chelsea vs. Man United, Bournemouth vs. Arsenal

Manchester United's Ander Herrera reacts after missing a chance during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Monday, Dec. 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
AP Photo/Jon Super
1 Comment

Arsenal’s Premier League title hopes are quickly slipping away, thanks to their current four-game winless run — not to mention Leicester City’s red-hot form — much like Manchester United see themselves falling away from the race for the top-four.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Bournemouth are desperately hoping just to avoid a relegation dogfight that goes down to the wire, and Chelsea… well, they’re just kind of there, still sitting in the bottom half of the league table. Sunday’s pair of PL fixtures is full of storylines and implications in the context of the season as a whole.

Bournemouth vs. Arsenal — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and Live Extra

Arsenal’s recent form couldn’t have come at a worse time, which is hardly surprising when considering they’d been far and away the best team in England for a little over 12 straight months; they were bound to slip up at some point. Having been top of the league themselves barely two weeks ago, the Gunners have fallen to fourth, eight points behind Leicester. Not even the return of Alexis Sanchez has provided the much-needed spark for an attack that has failed to find the back of the net in three straight games (305 minutes in total, dating back to their 3-3 draw with Liverpool).

As for Bournemouth, only Leicester and Tottenham Hotspur (9 each) have won more points from their last three league fixtures than the Cherries (7). Callum Wilson (five goals), whose season ended back on Sept. 26 (knee), remains Bournemouth’s leading scorer on the season, though Arsenal youth academy product Benik Afobe has proven an inspired January signing thus far (three goals in four games). Bournemouth are winless in their two all-time meetings with the Gunners, dating back to a 3-0 League Cup defeat in 1987. When these sides met for the first time this season, back on Dec. 28, it was Arsenal who were victorious, 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium.

On the injury front, Bournemouth have a mostly clean bill of health, as Junior Stanislas (knee) is the only recent addition to long-term absentees Wilson, Max Gradel and Tyrone Mings. For Arsenal, Santi Cazorla (knee), Tomas Rosicky (thigh) and Carl Jenkinson (knee) will all miss another month at least, while Jack Wilshere (leg) and Danny Welbeck (knee) remain without definitive timetables to return.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL preview — Leicester hammer Man City, Spurs go 2nd ]

Chelsea vs. Manchester United — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and Live Extra

This one used to really mean something. Those were the days, weren’t they? These days, Chelsea need a win just to leapfrog Crystal Palace for 12th place. On a positive note, the Blues are unbeaten in 10 games in all competitions since the departure of Jose Mourinho, but have won just three of eight league games during that period. Diego Costa is scoring goals semi-regularly again, but he’s also acting out in his usual Sunday League-like manner, which means he could either spontaneously combust on the field of play, or hop the next flight back to Madrid without telling anyone what’s going on.

As for Man United, they’re actually scoring goals these days (six combined in their last two games – all competitions), which has Louis Van Gaal dreaming of a title challenge once again. On a really positive note, Wayne Rooney has scored seven goals in his last seven games in all competitions (five in five in the PL) and has forged a really sound partnership with 20-year-old Anthony Martial up top (three assists, one goal in last two games – all competitions). A top-four place is still a very realistic target for the Red Devils — though it likely won’t matter with regards to Van Gaal’s job status — but it’ll take everything Rooney and Martial have between them to overcome Van Gaal’s ultra-defensive tactics and score enough goals to get there.

When these sides met on the final matchday of 2015, the proceedings at Old Trafford ended a stale 0-0 draw one might expect from a Van Gaal-versus-Mourinho meeting of the minds, if only the Portuguese had still been in charge at the time. On the injury front, Chelsea are nearly 100 percent healthy, with only Radamel Falcao (leg) still unavailable for selection. For United, the latest injury report is extensive: Bastian Schweinsteiger (knee), Phil Jones (ankle) and Marcos Rojo (shoulder) will all miss Sunday’s clash, while Marouane Fellaini (knock) is questionable.