AS Livorno Calcio v Bologna FC - Serie A

Italy roundup: Milan meets angry fans, Juve wins again and there’s a drop zone shuffle

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Juventus left it late, but pushed its Serie A lead to 17 points with Nos. 2 and 3 Roma and Napoli playing on Monday.

Andrea Pirlo scored in the 89th minute as The Old Lady won 1-0 at mid-table Genoa. Juve was outshot 14-6 and needed four saves from Gianluigi Buffon, but carried more than half of possession.

Meanwhile, AC Milan’s miserable season continued with a 4-2 home defeat to Parma that had the ultras fuming (and their chief executive rather humbled). Christian Abbiati took a red card in the fifth minute 11-man Parma took advantage. After the match, Milan boss Clarence Seedorf and a number of players including Kaka and Mario Balotelli met with the fans to discuss the hard times.

From The Guardian:

“It was a very peaceful meeting, nothing in particular,” the Dutchman told Sky Sport Italia. “After two years of suffering they wanted to express their feelings.

“I just went to watch. There is great respect for the Milan shirt on the part of everyone. Sometimes it helps just to listen and give the fans a voice, so they know we hear them.

“I experienced something similar when I was at Botafogo [in Brazil]. If they feel the fans are helping, the team will react.”

The team’s in a bad spot. Twelfth place is bad enough, but it’s reasonable to envision a scenario where Milan could fall as far as 15th. The meeting was a nice touch from the players, who need to step their games up dramatically, especially at San Siro.

There was a big shakeup at the bottom of the table. Sassuolo climbed off the bottom of the table by sending Catania to the basement with a 3-1 win and Livorno left the drop zone behind for a day with a 2-1 win over Bologna.

It looked business as usual for Sassuolo when Gonzalo Bergessio scored in the 30th minute, but three different Black and Greens scored to give the team hope of survival. Catania remains winless on the road and are now four points from safety, while Sassuolo is a point higher and three points back of Chievo and Livorno.

That’s because Livorno got two goals in the first eight minutes of the second half before taking two red cards and still holding on to beat Bologna, pushing its opponents into the last relegation slot. It’s going to be a maddening couple months in Italy, as five teams are within four points of each other in slots No. 15-20.

Elsewhere

  • Verona 0-2 Inter Milan — Inter still harbors Top Three hopes after Rodrigo Palacio and Jonathan score for a road win.
  • Atalanta 3-0 Sampdoria —Nerazzurri, winners of three straight, move into the top half of the table with two goals before half and another on the other side.
  • Cagliari 0-2 Lazio — Lazio responded to a fan protest last week with a comfortable win on the road, with Senad Lulic and Keith scoring. They out-attempted Cagliari 17-8 after the hosts saw a red card to Daniele Conti in the 77th minute.
  • Fiorentina 3-1 Chievo — Goals from Mario Gomez, Alessandro Matri and Juan Guillermo Cuadrado helped the home side keep its faint Top Three hopes alive.
  • Torino vs. Napoli — Monday
  • Roma vs. Udinese — Monday

Standings

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Juventus 28 24 3 1 64 19 45 14-0-0 10-3-1 75
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 28 14 6 8 48 31 17 8-3-3 6-3-5 48
Inter Milan 28 12 11 5 46 29 17 7-6-1 5-5-4 47
Parma 27 12 10 5 45 31 14 6-6-2 6-4-3 46
Lazio 28 11 8 9 36 35 1 7-3-3 4-5-6 41
Verona 28 12 4 12 43 46 -3 8-2-5 4-2-7 40
Atalanta 28 11 4 13 31 38 -7 9-2-3 2-2-10 37
Torino 27 9 9 9 39 35 4 5-5-3 4-4-6 36
AC Milan 28 9 8 11 41 42 -1 6-4-4 3-4-7 35
Genoa 28 9 8 11 31 35 -4 6-4-4 3-4-7 35
Sampdoria 28 9 7 12 33 42 -9 5-4-5 4-3-7 34
Udinese 27 9 4 14 30 39 -9 6-2-5 3-2-9 31
Cagliari 28 6 11 11 27 38 -11 6-4-5 0-7-6 29
Chievo 28 6 6 16 23 41 -18 4-2-7 2-4-9 24
Livorno 28 6 6 16 31 51 -20 4-4-7 2-2-9 24
Bologna 28 4 11 13 23 43 -20 2-7-5 2-4-8 23
Sassuolo 28 5 6 17 28 56 -28 4-1-9 1-5-8 21
Catania 28 4 8 16 21 49 -28 4-6-3 0-2-13 20

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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