Mitroglou

Fulham with plenty of explaining to do for the Kostas Mitroglou debacle

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Kostas Mitroglou is injured. Again.

With Fulham manager Felix Magath confirming the Greek tweaked his hamstring on international duty, there are a myriad of questions that fans are demanding answers to.

The Cottagers are bottom of the league, and with relegation a major possibility Magath has maintained that Mitroglou is not fit enough even for bench duty.

Mind you, the 25-year-old is no ordinary January transfer target.

Having bagged 14 goals in 12 Greek Super League matches for Olympiakos, Fulham shelled out a club-record $20 million looking to save their Premier League status.

The transfer sum broke Fulham’s previous record signing – Steve Marlet. That name conjures demonic thoughts in the minds of many Fulham fans, as the French striker proved a massive flop at Craven Cottage.

Marlet scored 11 goals in 54 Fulham appearances between 2001-2005, and his performances were so poor they caused former owner Mohamed Al Fayed to sue then-manager Jean Tigana for the ridiculous $19.3 million transfer fee.

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Kostas Mitroglou has spent most of his time on the Craven Cottage pitch in street clothes.

Fans were eager to purge those painful memories, and Mitroglou’s signing was a promising step towards both erasing Marlet from the Fulham record books and bolstering an offense not capable of making up for a porous defense.

But none of that has happened.

Instead of leading a Whites charge out of the relegation zone, Mitroglou has spent a grand total of 30 minutes on the pitch for Fulham, against West Brom, and he looked utterly baffled in both mind and body.  Otherwise, Mitroglou hasn’t even made the squad once since signing.

Prior to facing Chelsea last weekend, Magath explained his reasoning by confirming his striker wasn’t injured, just plain unfit.

Then, despite this allegation, the club released Mitroglou to play in the international break.  The decision is a baffling one, and sure enough the striker pulled his hammy after an hour.

So we come full circle to the original question – who in the heck sanctioned a club-record transfer for a player who can’t last a half hour in the Premier League before looking exhausted, and can’t go an hour in international competition without getting injured?

If you believe ousted Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen, the transfer decisions were almost solely in the hands of longtime CEO Alistair Mackintosh.  A former member of Manchester City’s front office, Mackintosh is a fan-favorite at Craven Cottage, having orchestrated the club’s rise from Premier League newbies to Europa League contenders.

But in the last few years, Mackintosh was handcuffed by a transfer policy dominated by frees and cheap journeymen purchases. The policy often caused former manager Martin Jol to say Fulham were required to be “creative” in the transfer market.

Now, the squad is full of these players, and Mackintosh needed to make a splash to rescue Fulham’s Premier League status.  Using an injection of cash by new owner Shad Khan, he failed to rope in Steven Defour but cashing in on Mitroglou along with Lewis Holtby.

Unfortunately, the Greek’s arrival has only produced more questions than answers at the front of Fulham’s attack. When will he play? Why was this purchase sanctioned if it took just a set of eyes to see he’s not fit? If he’s unfit, why was he released to international duty? Will he stay if Fulham are relegated?

With Dimitar Berbatov gone to Monaco and just Darren Bent left at Fulham to run the attack, the future remains bleak for Fulham’s season, and Mackintosh has plenty of explaining to do after flushing money down the toilet on obviously damaged goods.

Report: Milan says Nocerino sale to Orlando City to be formalized Monday

REGGIO NELL'EMILIA, ITALY - AUGUST 12:  Antonio Nocerino of Milan celebrates after scoring the goal 4-3 during the TIM pre-season tournament match between AC Milan and US Sassuolo Calcio at Mapei Stadium - Città del Tricolore on August 12, 2015 in Reggio nell'Emilia, Italy.  (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
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Football Italia says the sale of Antonio Nocerino to Orlando City will be completed on Monday

The 30-year-old was first whispered as a target for DC United before Orlando emerged as a destination, a move that caused some consternation due to Major League Soccer’s controversial Discovery Process.

[ SERIE A: Juventus wins 15th-straight to replace Napoli at No. 1 ]

Capped 15 times between 2007-2012, Nocerino has spent his entire career in Italy with the exception of a loan to West Ham United in 2014.

From Football Italia:

“Tomorrow we will terminate our rapport with Nocerino, who will go to play in Orlando,” Galliani told Mediaset Premium. “With that move, our transfer activity will be finished for this session.”

“Football has changed so much, until a few years ago nobody went to China or the United States. The sport is becoming more globalised.”

The reunion with Kaka obviously helps strengthen Orlando City’s midfield, and the Lions will be daydreaming of the impact Sebastian Giovinco made coming from Serie A to MLS.

Watch Live: Arsenal vs. Leicester City (Lineups, Live Stream)

Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez, center, scores their third goal during their English Premier League soccer match against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium, Leicester, England, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015. (Paul Harding/PA via AP)     UNITED KINGDOM OUT       -     NO SALES      -      NO ARCHIVES
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Arsenal host Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday (Watch live, 7a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) in a huge clash between two title contenders.

First-place Leicester have a five-point lead over third-place Arsenal going into this one and the Foxes have won three on the spin, including a huge win at Man City last weekend.

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As for the Gunners, they won for the first time in five last week and their offensive stars seem to be purring once again.

In team news Arsenal have Danny Welbeck on the bench after his long spell out through injury, while Leicester is unchanged.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud. Subs: Ospina, Chambers, Flamini, Elneny, Campbell, Walcott, Welbeck

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs, Mahrez, Kante, Drinkwater, Albrighton, Okazaki, Vardy. Subs:Subs: Schwarzer, King, Gray, Ulloa, Dyer, Wasilewski, Chilwell

La Liga: Ronaldo scores twice, Neville gets 1st win as a manager

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring a goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Athtletic Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo scored two goals to lead Real Madrid to a 4-2 win over Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, provisionally lifting it into second place in the Spanish league.

Ronaldo opened the scoring in the third minute before Javier Eraso quickly leveled for the Basques in a back-and-forth first half at the Santiago Bernabeu that finished with James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos giving Madrid a 3-1 lead at halftime.

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Madrid defender Raphael Varane, whose error led to Eraso’s goal, was sent off in the 83rd after earning identical bookings for twice thrusting his forearm into Aritz Aduriz’s head while contesting a high ball.

Despite being a man down, Ronaldo found the net again in the 87th to move past Barcelona’s Luis Suarez as the competition’s leading scorer with 21 goals this season.

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Gorka Elustondo headed in Bilbao’s second goal in the 90th.

Madrid’s fourth win in as many home matches under coach Zinedine Zidane – by a combined score of 20-3 – lifted it two points ahead of Atletico Madrid before it visits Getafe on Sunday.

Leader Barcelona is one point ahead of Madrid with two matches to play: against Celta on Sunday and at Sporting Gijon on Wednesday.

Zidane will make his European coaching debut on Wednesday when Madrid visits Roma in the Champions League’s round of 16.

Ronaldo’s goals were his 31st and 32nd in 30 games across all competitions this campaign, a season in which he has been criticized by some for failing to score against important rivals.

“About Cristiano, what can I say?” Zidane said before employing an expletive in Spanish to describe how good he considers the forward’s form.

“We are ready for the match against Roma. We are in shape, playing well, and very pleased with how we played today against a very good rival. We are prepared for Wednesday.”

Also Saturday, Villarreal strengthened its hold on fourth place and the last Champions League spot with a 1-0 win at home over Malaga thanks to striker Roberto Soldado‘s 18th-minute goal.

Ronaldo gave Madrid a brilliant start when he received a pass from Karim Benzema, used a deft dribble to wrong-foot Xabier Etxeita and fired a right-footed strike just under the crossbar.

But Bilbao was undaunted and quickly leveled in the 10th when Eraso pounced on Varane’s poor backpass that goalkeeper Keylor Navas did well to stop from becoming an own goal but left for Eraso to finish off.

Aduriz went close twice to putting the visitors ahead with a header saved by Navas before the striker hit the bar.

Rodriguez turned the flow back in Madrid’s favor with an excellent strike with his left foot from outside the area that curled around outstretched goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz in the 37th.

Kroos put Madrid in full control heading into the break when he took a pass from Ronaldo in the area and sent a shot that deflected off a defender past Iraizoz in first-half injury time.

“We leave with the feeling that we had a good first half. Maybe we missed a great opportunity today,” said Bilbao manager Ernesto Valverde, impressed by Madrid’s “extraordinary firepower.”

Ronaldo hit the upright before finally getting his second goal from a pass by substitute Lucas Vazquez.

Valencia hosts Espanyol later, while Real Betis visits Deportivo La Coruna.

Juventus win 15th straight to take Serie A lead from Napoli

Juventus' Simone Zaza, second from right, celebrates with is teammates after scoring during a Serie A soccer match between Juventus and Napoli at the Juventus stadium, in Turin, Italy, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Massimo Pinca)
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(AP) — Substitute Simone Zaza scored two minutes from time and Juventus beat visiting Napoli 1-0 on Saturday to take the Serie A lead from the southern club.

[ MORE: Napoli fans support racially abused Koulibaly ]

Seeking its fifth consecutive title, Juventus moved one point ahead of Napoli with 13 rounds remaining in the Italian league.

Near the end of a match in Turin that had been characterized by few chances for either side, Zaza’s goal came with a long, curving shot that deflected slightly off defender Raul Albiol.

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[ MORE: Chelsea’s next manager? Juve GM tells Allegri to “think twice” ]

It was Juventus’ 15th straight win, moving the Bianconeri within two victories of the Serie A record established by Inter Milan in 2006-07.

Earlier, Daniel Ciofani scored twice as promoted Frosinone beat Empoli 2-1 for its first away win in the top division. Also, Chievo Verona and Sassuolo drew 1-1.