Lazio, Genoa and Lecce to face match-fixing charges

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Three Italian clubs, Lazio, Genoa and Lecce, along with eight players, one of which is Lazio captain Stefan Mauri, will all face charges related to the alleged match-fixing of two Serie A games in 2011.

Mauri and his eight conspirators – Mario Cassano, Carlo Gervasoni, Omar Milanetto, Alessandro Zamperini, Massimiliano Benassi, Antonio Rosati and Stefano Ferrario – all face charges of sporting fraud, while Mauri and Zamperini face two additional charges for violating the Code of Sports Justice’s principles of loyalty, fairness and integrity, and a ban on betting.

The trial is set for July 24th and if found guilty the players face bans while the clubs could be deducted points. Mauri could be in line for the steepest punishment, with prosecutor Stefano Palazzi reportedly set to ask for the 33 year old to be suspended for five years.

This is the third consecutive off-season that the Italian Football Federation is set to hand out point deductions. Since mid 2011, at least 50 people in Italy have been arrested for match fixing.

The incident at issue appears to stem from Mauri & Co.’s attempt to fix the last two matches of the 2010-11 Serie A season in order to earn Lazio a spot in the Champions League. Here’s how the situation played out.

After losing three consecutive matches – a 1-2 defeat at Inter Milan, a 0-1 home loss to Juventus and a 1-2 loss at Udinese – Lazio’s dreams of playing in the 2011-12 Champions League were fading fast.

With two matches remaining in the season – against Genoa on May 14, 2011 and Lecce on May 22, 2011 – Lazio needed to collect all six points if they were to have a chance at qualifying for Europe’s top competition. With the fixes allegedly in place, Lazio defeated both Genoa and Lecce by scores of 4-2.

What Lazio could not control, however, was how the other Serie A side vying for a Champions League birth, Udinese, would fair in those final two weeks. In their penultimate match the Biancocelesti beat Chievo Verona 2-0.

In their final contest, against that year’s Serie A Champions AC Milan, Antonio di Natale & Co. managed an incredible 0-0 draw. That point was enough to put Udinese into 4th place, edging out 5th place Lazio (who were equal on league points with 66) by mere goal differential.

Just another reminder that even in football, crime never pays.

Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.