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

AT THE HALF: Manchester derby scoreless after 45 minutes

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After 45 minutes, the final Manchester derby of the 2016-17 Premier League season — the one that’ll go a long, long way toward deciding which of the city’s sides will finish in the top-four — is scoreless, but not without incident.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

The game’s best chances thus far fell Manchester City’s way, as Sergio Aguero missed a clear-cut chance after 10 minutes — Kevin De Bruyne whipped in the perfect ball to the back post, and Aguero put it wrong side of David De Gea‘s post.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Ander Herrera has, once again, be Manchester United’s danger man, combining well with Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but Claudio Bravo made the one save he was forced into during the first half. One thing to keep an eye on during the final 45 minutes: Rashford picked up a knock very early on, and struggled to move around the field after that.

STREAM LIVE: The Manchester Derby

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The third Manchester Derby of the season is the first away from Old Trafford, as Manchester United visits Manchester City (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.

There’s much on the line, as the sides sit just two points apart in the race for the Top Four. Man City would leapfrog third-place Liverpool with a win, while United could join the Reds on 66 points with a match-in-hand.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Sergio Aguero starts for Man City, with Gabriel Jesus on the bench.

On the other side, it’ll be a physical middle-third guarded by Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, and Marouane Fellaini. Wayne Rooney and Jesse Lingard start on the bench.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Bravo, Zabaleta, Kompany (C), Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Sterling, De Bruyne, Sane, Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Sagna, Fernando, Navas, Clichy, Gabriel Jesus, A. Garcia

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Darmian; Herrera, Carrick, Fellaini, Mkhitaryan; Rashford, Martial. Subs: Romero, Shaw, Fosu-Mensah, Tuanzebe, Young, Lingard, Rooney.

Ex-Liverpool CEO shares biting story of Suarez transfer

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Ian Ayre’s got jokes.

The former Liverpool CEO lifted the lid on some transfer stories during a Merseyside lecture this week.

Of note, Ayre admitted that the club thought Dele Alli demanded too much given what he had produced when the Reds has the chance to sign him as a 16-year-old, and said that Liverpool could’ve landed Alexis Sanchez but the player wanted to live in London (“We couldn’t move the football club to London, unfortunately,” he quipped).

The best part relayed by Sky Sports had to do with Luis Suarez, and shows the relentless nature of the transfer market. Clearly Barcelona had interest in Suarez before the fiery striker bit Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, because, well…

“I remember the sporting director of Barcelona calling me during that game, immediately as Suarez bit the player, and he said to me ‘my friend, he’s bitten somebody, how can this be the price?’ I said ‘he’d already bitten somebody when you first bid!'”

We’re sure there’s a certain amount of storytelling in there, but undoubtedly some truth.

Given Barca paid a reported $84 million for the striker, the asking price couldn’t have started that much higher.

Men in Blazers podcast: Chelsea tops Spurs, Top Four predictions

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Rog and Davo return to discuss Chelsea’s FA Cup semifinal victory over Spurs, update their Top Four predictions (again), and dive into the depths of the relegation zone. Plus, the very important movement to change “Hudson Street” to “Ray Hudson Street.”

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