Double hit for Everton: Loss at Reading, Phil Neville likely out until 2013

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If Everton fans needed more bad news after watching their team lose to Reading (a team that hadn’t won since being promoted), manager David Moyes was more than willing to oblige:

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The Toffees may have more depth than they’ve had in recent seasons (meaning, they have some depth this year), but they’re still very thin in central midfield. Moyes’s first choice pair of Darron Gibson and Phil Neville were already compromised by Gibson’s thigh injury. With Neville out, the Toffees look set to rely on Thomas Hitzlsperger and Leon Osman, a duo unlikely to keep Everton near the top of the league. Osman is a quality wide option, but deployed in the middle with a player who hasn’t been good since 2008-09? It’s not something that will inspire confidence with games against Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham on the horizon.

On Saturday, Osman and Hitzlsperger were fine, albiet against one of the league’s worst teams. It’s also possible they’ll be fine going forward, but should they falter, there are a few alternatives. Netherlands international John Heitenga can be moved from defense into midfield, while Marouane Fellaini is also capable of playing at the base of midfield. It’s not like David Moyes has to live-and-die with Osman and Hitzlsperger.

Still, the Neville injury is a big blow for a team that had been one of the league’s pleasant surprises. Should the Toffees fight through this, that surprise will become all the more acute. Regression, however, would be understandable.

Watch Live: Wolves-Spurs, Manchester United-Everton

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Two absolute beauties kick off Sunday’s Premier League action, and your stream links for Man Utd-Everton and Wolves-Spurs are below.

Jose Mourinho’s Spurs will hit the NBCSN airwaves at 9 a.m. ET when they tangle with beastly Wolves, who haven’t lost in league play since September.

Wolves enter the day seventh and Spurs eighth, but both can finish the day within a win of fourth place Chelsea.

[ STREAM: Wolves-Spurs | Man Utd-Everton ]

At the same time at Old Trafford, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will hope to continue Manchester United’s good vibes against visitors Everton.

Solskjaer’s Red Devils can pull into fifth place with a win, closing to within two points of the Top Four. Everton enters the day two points clear of the drop zone, and would love to pull into 13th with a win.

Read previews of both games, as well as the 11:30 a.m. ET kick between Arsenal and Man City, here.

9 a.m. ET: Wolverhampton Wanderers v. Tottenham Hotspur — NBCSN [ STREAM ]
9 a.m. ET: Manchester United v. Everton — NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]

LINEUPS

Wolves: Patricio, Saiss, Coady, Dendoncker, Jonny, Neves, Moutinho, Doherty, Jota, Traore, Jimenez.

Spurs: Gazzaniga, Aurier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Dier, Sissoko, Dele, Son, Lucas, Kane.


Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, McTominay, Fred, James, Lingard, Rashford, Martial.

Everton: Pickford, Keane, Mina, Holgate, Digne, Coleman, Iwobi, Davies, Bernard, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin.

Serie A roundup: Napoli falls to Parma in debut for Gattuso (video)

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Napoli’s last-minute loss to Parma in Gennaro Gattuso’s debut highlights Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Napoli 1-2 Parma

Napoli remains in a dark place as Gennaro Gattuso debut with Gli Azzurri ended in a last-minute 2-1 loss to Parma.

The defeat marks eight consecutive games without a win in Serie A play for Napoli, who dismissed Carlo Ancelotti earlier this week despite punching a ticket in the last 16 of the Champions League after a win over Genk.

After their fifth loss of the season, Napoli are currently eighth on the table with 21 points, seven behind sixth-placed Atalanta and 17 behind league leaders Inter Milan.

 

In the third minute of stoppage time, Gervinho – experienced as anyone else in tightly-contested situations – received a simple pass from Dejan Kulusevski, carefully striking it into the back of the net inside the six-yard box. The 32-year-old Ivorian has five goals in Serie A this season, and Saturday’s was his most important yet. 

For Gattuso (and hopeful Napoli supporters), Saturday was the antithesis of dreamy start, but with time and a change of mentality the situation may change.

“I don’t believe in bad luck. Right now we’re not good mentally,” the 41-year-old manager said following the match. “The team is paying for the fact that it has not won (in the league) for 50 or more days.”

“The first 10 minutes also prove it,” he added. “It’s tough as are the whistles of the fans. There’s a lot of work to do.”

The home side recorded 33 shots throughout the night, but Parma proved to be more clinical, scoring at death and opening the scoresheet just four minutes in. In the 64th minute, Napoli were able to get one go their way, as Dreis Merten’s lofting cross with force was headed home by Arkadiusz Milik. 

Gattuso and his men will be tested once as they travel to Sassuolo in a weeks time, while Parma look to trim their four-point gap with Atalanta when they host Brescia.

Elsewhere
Brescia 3-0 Lecce
Genoa 0-1 Sampdoria

Hertha’s under-16s stop playing after alleged racist abuse

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BERLIN (AP) Hertha Berlin’s under-16 team stopped playing a game at regional rival Auerbach after its players were allegedly subjected to racist abuse from their opponents on Saturday.

The Bundesliga club says in a statement on its website that “several players from our team were racially abused by their opposing players.”

Hertha officials informed the referee of the alleged abuse and decided to stop playing in the 68th minute while leading 2-0 “because we as Hertha BSC condemn racism and discrimination in every form,” the club said.

[ MORE: Bundesliga wrap – Klinsmann gets 1st win ]

Hertha executive board member Paul Keuter called it “the only correct decision, not to continue with the game.”

On Twitter, the club said: “There are times when football doesn’t come first. Racism has no place in our society.”

Hertha under-23 player Jessic Ngankam said he was targeted with monkey chants and called an “ape” by an opposing player during his side’s fourth division game against Lokomotive Leipzig on Dec. 6.

“Insults are unfortunately an everyday occurrence in football, and I can put up with them. But racist abuse is a no-go,” the 19-year-old Ngankam told broadcaster MDR.

Both Hertha and Lokomotive condemned the alleged abuse.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Ciaran Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

La Liga roundup: Sociedad hold leaders Barcelona to draw (video)

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A stunning draw from top-of-the-table Barcelona highlight La Liga’s Saturday action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Real Sociedad 2-2 Barcelona

If Real Madrid manages to walk away from Mestalla with three points, they’ll dethrone nemesis Barcelona and become clear-cut leaders of La Liga.

Just days before El Clasico itself, a rare 2-2 draw from Barcelona against hosts Real Sociedad is the reason behind Los Blancos’ prime opportunity.

 

Former Borussia Dortmund starlet Alexander Isak tapped in his fourth goal of the season in the 62nd minute, leveling the score for Sociedad and sending the home fans into a frenzy.

In true Barcelona fashion, Real Sociedad, ironically hit the ground running first. 

After earning a foul inside the box from a corner kick set piece, Reala captain Mikel Oyarzabal converted from the spot, putting Sociedad, who have exceeded expectations this season under first-year manager Imanol Alguacil, up against the defending champions. 

It wouldn’t take long before the visitors responded, however.

A familiar face and experienced goalscorer at Anoeta, it was the ideal scenario for Antoine Griezmann to shake off some pressure that has been a key talking point surrounding the Frenchman lately. Darting inside the box with only Alex Remiro to beat, No. 17 – like in the old days – carefully chipped the ball over Remiro and into the back of the net the ball wandered. 

If the second half indicated anything early on it was that it was going to be difficult for Barcelona to drop points on Saturday. Unselfish as ever before, Lionel Messi laid off the ball to an unmarked Luis Suarez, who his team up 2-1 four minutes into the second half.

A lack of control of possession and, most notably, an unstable defensive line, would end up costing Barcelona two points.

Next for Barcelona is the game of the season: a league bout against Real Madrid on Wednesday, while Real Sociedad travel to Becerril in the second round of Copa del Rey. 

Elsewhere
Atletico Madrid 2-0 Osasuna
Granada 1-2 Levante
Atheltic Bilbao 0-0 Eibar