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

Spartak and Zenit fined in latest Russia fan racism cases

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MOSCOW (AP) Spartak Moscow and Zenit St. Petersburg have both been fined for racist chants by their fans, the latest such incident in World Cup host nation Russia.

Spartak’s fans were accused of aiming monkey chants at FC Tosno player Nuno Rocha, who is black, while some Zenit supporters allegedly chanted a Nazi slogan during a league game.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

The clubs must each pay a 100,000-ruble ($1,600) fine, and Spartak has been hit with a partial stadium closure for its next cup game, state news agency RIA Novosti quotes Russian Football Union disciplinary committee head Artur Grigoryants as saying.

The verdict comes after FIFA charged Russia with racist abuse of France players during last month’s friendly.

Zenit has also faced two racism charges from UEFA this season.

Europa League: Arsenal, Marseille host semifinal 1st legs

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Arsenal’s Champions League dreams could be in for a rude awakening against tournament-tested Atletico Madrid.

The Premier League vs. La Liga match-up is one of two Europa League semifinal first legs set to be served up Sunday, with Marseille and Red Bull Salzburg meeting in the other.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

There’s something romantic about Arsene Wenger closing out his time at Arsenal against French opposition in Lyon, but Atleti and Salzburg won’t step aside for poetics.

Both matches kickoff ay 3:05 p.m. ET

Arsenal vs. Atletico Madrid

It’s a bit stunning that this tie has no history considering both club’s statures in their leagues and Europe, but that’s what we’ll se when Arsenal welcomes Atleti for the first leg.

Arsenal boasts two of the top 10 performers in the UEL this season — it would be three had the Gunners not sold Theo Walcott — and are paced by Aaron Ramsey, who has four goals and an assist. Mesut Ozil, who’s ready to return to the pitch, has the reverse with a goal and four helpers.

The Gunners have outscored UEL opposition 29-10 this season.

It’s no surprise that Antoine Griezmann has been Atleti’s best attacker since the Madrid side dropped out of the UCL to run rampant through the UEL knockout rounds. Atleti beat Copenhagen 5-1, Lokomotiv Moscow 8-1, and Sporting Lisbon 2-1 for an aggregate score line of 15-3.

Marseille vs. Red Bull Salzburg

Don’t expect this to be a simple case of Ligue 1 bossing inferior opposition: This pair met in the group stage, with the Austrian side winning at home and drawing 0-0 in France.

Salzburg has shown its mettle in various ways during the UEL. After allowing just one goal in an unbeaten group stage, they’ve won 4-3 over Real Sociedad, 2-1 against Borussia Dortmund, and 6-5 versus Lazio. That’s no easy road, and Marseille represents another big challenge.

Marseille is bidding to make its first European final since 2004, and has been led by Dimitri Payet‘s three goals and four assists, and Lucas Ocampos’ four goals and one assist. Marseille has knocked off RB Leipzig, Athletic Bilbao, and Braga after the group stage.

Names you’ll need to know from Salzburg: defenders Stefan Lainer and Paulo Miranda have been spectacular, and Munas Dabbur and Valon Berisha have each scored five times in the tournament.

Mourinho on longtime nemesis Wenger: ‘We can be friends in future’

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Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger have had a poor relationship, but the former thinks he’s soon to get along with the latter.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

Manchester United boss Mourinho, 55, heaped praise on the departing Arsenal manager ahead of the two sides’ Sunday meeting at Old Trafford (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), saying the Frenchman has earned much respect.

Branding Wenger “iconic,” Mourinho says his fiery rivalry with Wenger stemmed from Arsenal’s stature in the Premier League when the Portuguese took over Chelsea.

“If he respects me even 50 percent of what I respect him we can even be friends in the future,” Mourinho told Sky Sports News. “I have lots of respect for him. But the reality is that he was at Arsenal, he was the champion and I came to the country in 2004 and wanted to steal his title. That’s football.”

Mourinho said he’s tried to show his respect for Wenger, 68, over the past few seasons. It may become a passable relationship, but we find it hard to believe the pair will be dining together on a regular basis as the sun sets on their managerial careers (Mou has a while to go, we think).

Real’s Modric on Bayern feeling unlucky: “That’s their problem”

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Bayern Munich produced far more chances than visiting Real Madrid in Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg in Germany, but lost 2-1 at the Allianz Arena.

Franck Ribery butchered an open shot at goal, Robert Lewandowski beat Keylor Navas but didn’t score late, and Thomas Mueller missed getting contact on a shot inside the six.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

It was that kind of day, and Mueller is baffled that his team did not finish more than Joshua Kimmich’s opener.

“Everybody is wondering why this game is 1-2 for Madrid,” Mueller reportedly said. “We still cannot believe it.”

The quote comes from BeIN Sport’s Tancredi Palmeri, who has a stinging rebuke from Real Madrid maestro Luka Modric.

Real wasn’t great on Wednesday, but also limited their big mistakes to one: Marcelo’s lapse of judgment which helped Kimmich to open the scoring for Bayern Munich.

The hosts had a huge giveaway from Rafinha on the match-winner, and backup backstop Sven Ulreich didn’t have a phenomenal day on either goal. Throw in Arjen Robben’s injury requiring an 8th minute substitution, and Bayern did not have much good fortune on the day.

This one, though, doesn’t seem over, even with the tie moving to the Bernabeu.