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Italy roundup: With Champions League upon it, Milan’s run out of time to turn things around

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While their UEFA Champions League opponents were rediscovering their form, Milan were persisting with theirs, but whereas that meant Atlético Madrid were back to their dogged, convincing ways, it also meant the Rossoneri were putting up another unconvincing result. Still languishing in the middle of the Serie A table, Milan needed a long distance shot from Mario Balotelli to claim a 1-0 win over Bologna. Though they claimed three points for the third time in five games, a middling result against one of the league’s bottom feeders showed little progress from the form that got Max Allegri fired.

Now, they’re out of time. By replacing Allegri with Clarence Seedorf earlier this winter, the club implicitly conceded their hopes of making into next year’s Champions League, but having drawn an Atlético team still short on respect throughout Europe, there were hopes the Rossoneri could survive another round in this year’s tournament. For a team that’s always defined itself in terms of its European achievements, a win would serve as silver lining to an otherwise depressing season. Under Seedorf, Milan might have a chance.

While the soccer’s been different and the results have improved, Seedorf hasn’t dramatically changed Milan’s fortunes. The team is now top of the charts in possession, but that control hasn’t translated into goals, however. Thought the skill of Balotelli, Kaká, and Keisuke Honda is capable of picking teams apart, Milan’s scored more than one goal only once in their last six games. They claimed full points on Friday against Bologna, but they didn’t solve any of their problems.

As a result, Milan will go into Wednesday’s game little different from the team that squeaked through the group stage. Yes, there’s a new man in charge, some new players, and the play is different, but within the context of UEFA Champions League, Milan are essentially the same. They’re a talented side with a lot of history, but they’re one of the weakest teams alive in the competition. While the Rossoneri felt fortunate to draw Atlético, Atleti were the lucky ones.

Elsewhere

  • Fiorentina 1, Inter Milan 2 – A huge win for an Inter team that had started to lose their way – one that dealt a significant blow to La Viola’s Champions League hopes. With goals from Rodrigo Palacio and Mauro Icardi, Inter put three points between themselves and sixth place Hellas Verona. At the same time, they left Fiorentina six points behind Napoli for the league’s final Champions League spot.
  • Catania 3, Lazio 1 – The boost the Aquile got after Edy Reja’s return may have finally worn off. A first minute goal from Mariano Izco followed by second half scores from Nicolás Spolli and Gino Peruzzi helped Catania climb out of last place, with Lazio losing for the first time in league since Dec. 22.
  • Cagliari 1, Livorno 2 – Three red cards left Livorno playing nine-on-10, but with Federico Ceccherini and Marco Benassi’s dismissals coming late, the Labronici had plenty of time to claim the one-goal result that pulled them out of the bottom three.
  • Sassuolo 0, Napoli 2 – Taking advantage of Fiorentina’s Saturday slip, Napoli got goals from Blerim Dzemaili and Lorenzo Insigne on each side of half time to tighten their grip on third.
  • Atlalanta 0, Parma 4 – Now 12 rounds unbeaten, Parma got goals from Cristian Molinaro, Antonio Cassano, Ezequiel Schelotto, and an own goal from Yohan Benalouane to hand their hosts their third loss in four.
  • Genoa 3, Udinese 3 – A late brace from Alberto Gilardino brought Genoa back from two down to snap Udinese’s two-match winning streak.
  • Juventus 3, Chievo 1 – A Martín Cáceres own goal brought the visitors within one early in the second half, but after Fernando Llorente’s 10th goal of the season, Juventus restored the two-goal margin they’d carry to full-time.
  • Roma 3, Sampdoria 0 – Two goals from Mattia Destro bookended a 54th minute score from Miralem Pjanic, keeping Roma from being pulled into a battle for second with Napoli.

Monday

Hellas Verona vs. Torino

Others

Roma 1, Bologna 0

Standings

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Juventus 24 20 3 1 59 19 40 12-0-0 8-3-1 63
Roma 23 16 6 1 48 11 37 10-2-0 6-4-1 54
Napoli 24 15 5 4 49 27 22 8-3-1 7-2-3 50
Fiorentina 24 13 5 6 43 26 17 7-3-2 6-2-4 44
Inter Milan 24 10 9 5 42 28 14 6-5-1 4-4-4 39
Parma 23 9 9 5 36 27 9 5-5-2 4-4-3 36
Verona 23 11 3 9 39 37 2 8-1-3 3-2-6 36
Torino 23 8 9 6 36 30 6 5-5-2 3-4-4 33
AC Milan 24 8 8 8 37 35 2 6-4-2 2-4-6 32
Lazio 24 8 8 8 30 32 -2 6-3-2 2-5-6 32
Genoa 24 8 7 9 27 31 -4 5-4-3 3-3-6 31
Sampdoria 24 7 7 10 27 35 -8 4-4-4 3-3-6 28
Udinese 24 8 3 13 28 35 -7 5-1-5 3-2-8 27
Atalanta 24 8 3 13 24 36 -12 7-2-3 1-1-10 27
Cagliari 24 5 9 10 22 34 -12 5-4-4 0-5-6 24
Bologna 24 4 9 11 22 40 -18 2-6-4 2-3-7 21
Livorno 24 5 5 14 24 42 -18 3-3-6 2-2-8 20
Catania 24 4 7 13 19 41 -22 4-5-3 0-2-10 19
Chievo 24 4 6 14 17 35 -18 2-2-7 2-4-7 18
Sassuolo 24 4 5 15 23 51 -28 3-1-8 1-4-7 17

WATCH: Walcott compares Wenger speech to Pacino

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What if Tony D’Amato of American football was Antoine Dumond of the world’s game?

Theo Walcott says Arsene Wenger inspired him to make that comparison after a recent pregame speech, a fiery number that convinced the Arsenal attacker how badly his manager wanted to win the Premier League.

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Speaking to Arsenal TV for a series of questions on former and current teammates — and Wenger — Walcott shared a pretty funny tidbit:

“The manager did a speech the other day. I won’t be able to do the speech because it was that good.”

“It genuinely reminded me of the film ‘Any Given Sunday’. I actually said that to him, and I was little bit embarrassed.’ You remind me of that film, that speech,’ I didn’t know if he had seen the film.

“Just showing the passion and how hard, and how long it’s been as well. He really wants it, like all of his players.”

Here’s the thing, though: Walcott doesn’t give us the answer as to whether Wenger has seen “Any Given Sunday”. And how about you, Theo, do you see yourself in Willie Beamon or Cap Rooney?

CAS rejects Serbia’s challenge to Kosovo joining UEFA

Supporters of Kosovo's national soccer team raise Kosovo flag during their international friendly soccer match at Adem Jashari Stadium in Mitrovica, Kosovo on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. Kosovo host Turkey for their second friendly match of the country's national football team. Turkey won the match 6-1. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) The Serbian soccer federation’s appeal against Kosovo joining UEFA has been rejected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The court ruled that Kosovo met the standard of UEFA entry rules because it is “recognized by the majority of the United Nations member states as an `independent state.”‘

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Serbia argued that Kosovo, which joined European soccer’s governing body last May despite not being a U.N. member, should be blocked.

CAS decided that because “there is no formal recognition of countries by the U.N.,” then acceptance of Kosovo’s statehood by most countries was valid for the soccer application.

European soccer federations voted 28-24 in favor of Kosovo’s entry to UEFA after Serbia led opposition to its former province.

Serbia and its allies, including Russia, have not recognized Kosovo since the Balkan republic declared independence in 2008.

UEFA’s decision led to Kosovo joining FIFA one week later, and being fast-tracked into a 2018 World Cup qualifying group.

Still, Ukraine hosted Kosovo in neutral Poland in October, because its government also does not recognize Kosovo’s statehood.

Dempsey returns to training after second heart procedure

SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 28:  Clint Dempsey #2 of MLS All-Stars chases after the ball up field against the Arsenal FC during the second half of the AT&T MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium on July 28, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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Many were concerned about USMNT and Seattle Sounders attacker Clint Dempsey‘s future when he underwent a pair of heart procedures in 2016.

The 33-year-old Dempsey took another step to allay those fears when he hit the pitch for Seattle’s first day of preseason camp.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

The Sounders won the 2016 MLS Cup despite the absence of Dempsey, and his return would further strengthen the side. General manager Garth Lagerwey said Dempsey won’t be rushed, but could be nearing a return.

EFL Cup second legs preview: Liverpool, Hull City aim for comebacks

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11:  Divock Origi of Liverpool battles with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (L) and Ryan Bertrand of Southampton during the EFL Cup semi-final first leg match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on January 11, 2017 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
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Manchester United and Southampton are 90 minutes from Wembley Stadium.

Hull City and Liverpool would prefer to change that.

After first legs a fortnight ago, the EFL Cup semifinals play out on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of Feb. 26’s final at Wembley.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

First up is Southampton‘s trip to Liverpool, with the Saints nursing a 1-0 lead from the first leg at St. Mary’s. The Wednesday kickoff sees Saints hoping the Reds’ poor run of form will continue at Anfield. Liverpool has one win 2017, and that was an FA Cup replay victory over Plymouth Argyle.

Southampton boss Claude Puel knows the Reds will be ornery:

“We know Liverpool. They lost against Swansea at home, and I am sure they will want to react against us, but it’s important to keep all of our focus about our play.

“We know they are fantastic, a great team, with great players, but you saw in the first leg we have the ability to produce a strong game against them. It will be important to make a strong game – a perfect game – I think.”

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United got a terrific result in the first leg at Old Trafford, scoring twice and holding Hull City from scooping up a valuable road goal. Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini scored the goals in the 2-0 win, but the KC Stadium will be rocking on Thursday as the Tigers look to reverse the result.

United midfielder Michael Carrick says the Red Devils will play as if they are starting from scratch:

“It’s definitely not over, we all know that. We are telling ourselves that. I think we’ll be pretty much full strength and will approach the game like it’s a 0-0 and starting from scratch.

“It’s dangerous when you go in there defending a lead to tell yourself this result will do or that result will do, or we can afford to do this or that.”