Italy Roundup: Napoli shows Roma they’ll fight for second behind distancing Juventus

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Fiorentina’s loss to Juventus has effectively eliminated the storied club from the race for the Top Three — if there was a chance at all — while Napoli’s win over Roma says there’s plenty to be decided when it comes to Serie A’s second spot.

Kwadwo Asamoah’s second goal of the season came in the 42nd minute, and it was all The Old Lady would need to extend its top of the table total to 72 points. Juve is now 14-0 at home of the season as Gianluigi Buffon snagged clean sheet No. 14 on the season.

The match was just as even as the score suggested, but Fiorentina will again rue just how close they were to making a statement. Ryder Matos hit the bar on a header that would’ve equalized the match moments after he subbed into the contest. Earlier, Mario Gomez’s dangerous header went wide of the frame.

The Napoli-Roma match at San Paolo had a scary moment, as Dutch midfielder Kevin Strootman was carted off the field for Roma. Jose Maria Callejon’s 81st minute goal was the only marker of the match as Napoli pulled to within three points of second-place Roma (though i Lupi has a match-in-hand).

Roma had the better of attacking moments in the match, but Napoli boss Rafa Benitez won’t be complaining after he turned up the heat in the race for second. With the loss — and injury — it’s hard to imagine Roma making an improbable run to leapfrog Juventus. The gap between first and second place is now 14 points.

Elsewhere

  • Lazio 0-1 Atalanta — Home loss not nearly as disconcerting as the near-lack of fans in the seats as Lazio supporters protest against their club president.
  • Inter Milan 1-0 Torino — Hosts keep the heat on Fiorentina after a Rodrigo Palacio goal lifts them to a seventh home win.
  • Parma 2-0 Verona – Goals from Jonathan Biabiany and Ezequiel Schelotto serve to create three points room between the sixth- and seventh-place clubs of Serie A.
  • Sampdoria 4-2 Livorno– The road team looked ready to spur a jump from the drop zone after two goals in eight minutes from Ibrahima Mbaye gave them a 2-0 halftime lead, but Sampdoria found two goals by the 53rd minute before Stefano Okaka and Manolo Gabbiadini lifted their team to the win.
  • Chievo 2-1 Genoa – It was a good day to have a penalty-taker, as Alberto Paloschi converted pens in the 5th and 90th minute to offset Alberto Gilardino’s 88th minute goal as Chievo pulled three points clear of the drop.
  • Verona 0-0 Bologna – The visitors’ earned point worth its weight in gold as they stay out of the drop zone, but they’ll rue not taking all three after Rafael saved Rolando Bianchi’s penalty kick.
  • Bologna 0-0 Sassuolo — Visitors can only find one point from massive six-pointer as relegation continues to loom for bottom-dwellers are now five points from safety.

Standings

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Juventus 27 23 3 1 63 19 44 14-0-0 9-3-1 72
Roma 26 17 7 2 49 12 37 10-3-0 7-4-2 58
Napoli 27 16 7 4 52 29 23 9-4-1 7-3-3 55
Fiorentina 27 13 6 8 45 30 15 7-3-3 6-3-5 45
Inter Milan 27 11 11 5 44 29 15 7-6-1 4-5-4 44
Parma 26 11 10 5 41 29 12 6-6-2 5-4-3 43
Verona 27 12 4 11 43 44 -1 8-2-4 4-2-7 40
Lazio 27 10 8 9 34 35 -1 7-3-3 3-5-6 38
Torino 27 9 9 9 39 35 4 5-5-3 4-4-6 36
AC Milan 27 9 8 10 39 38 1 6-4-3 3-4-7 35
Genoa 27 9 8 10 31 34 -3 6-4-3 3-4-7 35
Sampdoria 27 9 7 11 33 39 -6 5-4-5 4-3-6 34
Atalanta 27 10 4 13 28 38 -10 8-2-3 2-2-10 34
Udinese 27 9 4 14 30 39 -9 6-2-5 3-2-9 31
Cagliari 27 6 11 10 27 36 -9 6-4-4 0-7-6 29
Chievo 27 6 6 15 22 38 -16 4-2-7 2-4-8 24
Bologna 27 4 11 12 22 41 -19 2-7-5 2-4-7 23
Livorno 27 5 6 16 29 50 -21 3-4-7 2-2-9 21
Catania 27 4 8 15 20 46 -26 4-6-3 0-2-12 20
Sassuolo 27 4 6 17 25 55 -30 3-1-9 1-5-8 18

Report: Sporting KC on verge of signing French midfielder Croizet

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Sporting Kansas City could be adding some European flair to its midfield this offseason.

According to multiple reports, the MLS club is in negotiations to sign French midfielder Yohan Croizet, who currently plays for Belgian first division side KV Mechelen. Croizet, who reportedly cost Mechelen a transfer fee worth more than $1 million, has started all 15 games he’s played for his side this season but has been substituted off on seven occasions and Mechelen are currently struggling in the league, sitting in 13th place with 18 points from 18 games.

Croizet hasn’t played since November 17, and appears on his way out.

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Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes, a Hungarian-American, is no stranger to the European market and has brought over plenty of diamonds in the rough from Europe to star with Sporting KC. Some previous examples, though in different positions from Croizet, include current winger Gerso, Krisztián Németh, Uri Rosell, and Aurelien Collin.

It will be interesting to see where Croizet plays in the Sporting KC side should it sign him, and how he works with Benny Feilhaber, who is turning 33-years old in January.

Arsenal lands Ostersunds in Europa League draw

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Arsenal will face a team with an English connection in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32.

The Gunners were paired with Swedish side Ostersunds in the Europa League knockout stage draw Monday, with matches set to be played on February 15 and February 22. Ostersund are managed by Englishman Graham Potter, who played in the Championship and lower in England before starting his managerial career with Ostersunds in 2010 in the fourth tier of Swedish soccer.

[READ: UCL draw+analysis]

Ostersunds surprised many earlier this year winning the Swedish Cup to qualify for the Europa League, and then advanced out of a group that included Hertha Berlin and Athletic Bilbao.

It represents an interesting draw for Arsenal, which will have to balance the squad during a tough February. The weekend prior to the first-leg match is the second leg of the North London derby against Tottenham, and following the second match with Ostersunds is a showdown with Manchester City.

Here’s a look at how the rest of the draw shook out:

Champions League last 16 draw sets up huge clashes

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The Round of 16 draw for the UEFA Champions League did not disappoint.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

We have some monster clashes with Chelsea facing Barcelona, once again, and the reigning champs Real Madrid paired with the favorites Paris Saint-Germain.

With five Premier League teams remaining, Tottenham have been handed a tough draw against Italian champions Juventus who were also runners up in the UCL last season, while Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool will all be rather happy with their draws.

United have been drawn against Spanish side Sevilla, Liverpool will face FC Porto and Man City clash with Basel.

Below is the draw in full, while UEFA has also released the schedule for the games with Man City, Spurs, Liverpool and Man United all playing their second legs at home.


Report: Whitecaps teen sensation Davies could have Man United trial

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The 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup saw a lot of young faces in competition, and one name that really seemed to stick came from Canada’s national team.

[ MORE: Five players LA FC should consider selecting in MLS Expansion Draft ]

Vancouver Whitecaps attacker Alphonso Davies has been doing it for both club and country since making his Major League Soccer debut in 2016, and now the young Canada international could be making a massive leap.

According to CTV Edmonton, the 17-year-old has been contacted by Premier League side Manchester United for a trial in January.

Davies would need clearance from the Whitecaps to join the Red Devils to train, however, with it being MLS’ offseason it’s hard to imagine the Cascadia club not allowing the former Edmonton Strikers player to seize the opportunity.

In 2017, Davies appeared in 26 matches for the Whitecaps and registered one assist for Carl Robinson’s side.

Davies has already become a regular with the Canada national team, after previously receiving call ups from the Under-15, U-18 and U-20 teams.