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

Pochettino’s Spurs put on show for Maradona, Kobe

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Post writers, us included, were drawn to Liverpool’s continued defensive woes following Tottenham Hotspur’s 4-1 demolition of the Reds at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

With Jurgen Klopp‘s personality and post-match quotes regarding uncapitalized goat Dejan Lovren, that’s understandable, but it would be a big mistake to not celebrate the class of Spurs on Sunday.

[ MORE: Match recap | Klopp, Matip reaction ]

Harry Kane is world class, scoring twice and providing a clever assist on another goal as Mauricio Pochettino‘s men showed the well-oiled nature of their machine.

And he was glowing on a match day that saw Kobe Bryant and one of Pochettino’s Argentine heroes, Diego Maradona, at Wembley:

“I spoke to Diego Maradona before the game, it was very emotional. He brings very good energy. He is the best player ever in football history.”

That the win is coming after a draw with Real Madrid at the Bernabeu is even more notable, considering the manners of each match. Hugo Lloris joined Kane as a star of the show of a more defensive-minded away midweek, but was merely a component as Spurs went for the jugular against the dicey defense of Liverpool.

Margins are small in the Premier League, but you could easily make an argument that Spurs are unlucky to sit five points behind Manchester City. Their star goalkeeper Hugo Lloris made gaffes in their lone league loss, to Chelsea, and a failure to finish myriad chances allowed Chris Wood‘s late goal to stand as an equalizer against Burnley.

“It is the third season that we are trying to catch someone. Manchester City are doing very well, they have an amazing squad and one of the best managers in the world. We see what happens, we believe, we will try to catch them. We are focused every day.

There’s another rough stretch ahead for Pochettino’s men, who don’t face City until Dec. 16. Presumably it’ll be second choice at West Ham in the League Cup this week before a trip to Old Trafford, and Spurs have the luxury of making that tough visit without fearing Paul Pogba on the other side of the pitch.

Then, it’s Real Madrid at home in the Champions League, a visit from Palace, and the international break. The North London Derby follows away, and Spurs will hope to have the UCL group sewn up before a trip to BVB days later.

The remaining schedule, save a trip to currently tricky Watford, would set them up to move within touching distance of City following the Dec. 16 match at the Etihad. The interim sees Man City facing Arsenal and Manchester United, so it wouldn’t be absurd to think Spurs could make up ground should City stumble (as unlikely as that looks right now).

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Klopp, Matip react to another rough Liverpool defensive showing

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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Joel Matip is shouldering the blame for Liverpool’s defensive collapse against Tottenham Hotspur, while the Reds’ manager is placing it on at least partially on Matip’s partner for the first half hour.

“Most teams at home with the stand in their back are always stronger,” Matip said after the 4-1 loss at Wembley Stadium.

[ RECAP: Spurs 4-1 Liverpool ]

“I am a defender and I should take care of this. We don’t think about the title race at the moment, we only try to get back in a good mood for next week.”

As for Klopp, he’s angry as expected following the shipping of four goals to Spurs. That verb works doubly here, as giveaways and mistakes were common place amongst the Reds’ backs and midfield.

Dejan Lovren had a rough day, subbing out after 31 minutes. The injured center back played a big part in Spurs first two goals, including leaping for and missing a Hugo Lloris long ball. From the BBC:

“If I am involved in this situation on the pitch, then Harry cannot get the ball.”

“We have to realize that we are responsible for this and nobody else. Of course we can fix it and we have to fix it as well.”

Klopp also detailed what went wrong with each of the four goals, then proffering that “the game was finished then.” Right.

There’s a lot to love about Klopp, who can be a tactical wizard. But he’s also struggled to convince players of their roles, and has shipped some very decent center back depth out-of-town. The latter is the reason Klopp used a less than fit Lovren on Sunday, and it burned them against a well-oiled Spurs side.

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Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 Liverpool: Spurs superb at Wembley

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  • Spurs up 2-0 after 12 minutes
  • Salah pulls one back
  • Lovren struggles, subbed after 31
  • Kane with four brace of season

Tottenham Hotspur ran all over visiting Liverpool on Sunday, riding another star turn from Harry Kane to a 4-1 win at Wembley Stadium.

The win boosts Spurs level with second place Manchester United on points, and slips Liverpool ninth behind Burnley on goal differential. The Reds are three points back of the Top Four.

Kane scored twice, and assisted Heung-Min Son‘s goal. Dele Alli added the fourth in the second half, while Mohamed Salah continued his sparkling season with a goal for Liverpool.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

It was 1-0 early, as Kane cut into the center of the attacking third and took advantage of a Dejan Lovren error (prepare for a lot more of that term, sans first name) to hit a left-footed shot into the goal.

It was 2-0 when Lovren leapt to meet a Hugo Lloris clearance and… totally missed it. This Lovren error sprung Kane, who was patient with his dribble and snapped a pass to Son to make it 2-0.

Salah made it 2-1 when Jordan Henderson spied his back post run and his a diagonal ball. Salah put it by an unusually out-of-sorts Hugo Lloris.

Son had a good chance to restore the two-goal lead when he raced past Lovren, but Mignolet blocked his shot and collected a rebound off Lovren’s body.

Lovren left the match in the 32nd minute for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. That barely stemmed the flow, as Dele was alone to collect and deposit Joel Matip’s attempted clearance of a Christian Eriksen stoppage time free kick.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Perhaps a riot act was read, because Liverpool came hot out of the second half gates. Spurs dealt with havoc in the first 120 seconds.

Kane made it 4-1 in the 56th minute, off a free kick. Mignolet collided with Matip while trying to collect an Eriksen free kick, then Roberto Firmino blocked a Jan Vertonghen shot off the line before Kane lashed in the third crack.

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Barcelona chief backs Catalan leaders in clash with Spain

Photo by Ed Mulholland/Getty Images for FC Barcelona
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu says Barcelona backs the leaders of Catalonia in response to the Spanish government’s decision to take over the regional government.

Bartomeu said on Saturday “the fact that people have been imprisoned for their political ideas is unacceptable in the 21st century. No one can question Barcelona’s commitment to Catalan society and its democratic institutions.”

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

To block the Catalan independence push, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy wants the Senate to give him direct power to dissolve the regional Catalan government and call an early election.

Bartomeu says Barcelona sides with those who defend the Catalan people’s right to vote in a referendum for independence. He also says the club aims to remain in the Spanish league.

Barcelona leads La Liga, defeating Malaga late Saturday.