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Chaos and ‘absurdity’ rule in Italy’s lower divisions

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ROME (AP) FIFA president Gianni Infantino labeled the chaos in Italy’s lower divisions an “absurdity.”

And it’s hard to argue with him.

Two months into the season, several clubs still don’t know which division they will be playing in and some teams have hardly played at all.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 10 ]

The disorder is highlighting the failure of Italy’s complicated sports justice system.

On Wednesday, a regional appeals court overturned an Italian soccer federation decision from August that had reduced Serie B from 22 to 19 clubs.

The earlier decision by the federation’s emergency commissioner Roberto Fabbricini was made following the bankruptcies of Avellino, Bari and Cesena.

Virtus Entella, Novara, Pro Vercelli and Ternana – the four clubs relegated at the end of last season – plus Catania and Siena – which each lost in the Serie C playoffs – are all arguing for a place in the second division.

But it remains unclear which clubs might now be promoted or re-instated, or if the appealing teams might accept financial payoffs instead.

Eight rounds of Serie B have already been played among the existing 19 clubs, with one team sitting idle each weekend.

[ MLS: How to solve the Best XI? ]

Meanwhile, Entella has played only one game in Serie C, which is also known as the Lega Pro, while it awaits the outcome of its appeal.

Novara, Pro Vercelli, Ternana and Catania have also played fewer matches than the norm in the third division.

“It’s not tolerable that some squads still don’t know what league they will play in,” Infantino said at Monday’s election of Gabriele Gravina as president of the Italian federation. “It seems to me a real absurdity.

“Why does Italian football need outside help to resolve problems that can be resolved internally?” Infantino added, referring to the appeal to an ordinary (non-sports) court.

Fabbricini had been running the federation since February, after a failed vote to find a successor for Carlo Tavecchio, who resigned following Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup nearly a year ago.

There were also emergency commissioners of the federation following the 2006 Italian match-fixing and refereeing scandal known as “calciopoli.”

“Four and a half years of emergency commissioners in the last 20 years seems like an absurdity to me,” Infantino said. “There needs to be a strong federation now.”

The decision on how to resolve the situation will now likely be made by Gravina, who was previously the Serie C president.

The matter was taken to a regional appeals court after the clubs’ cases were rejected by multiple sports justice outlets.

The appeals court in Rome ruled that Fabbricini did not have the power to alter the number of squads in Serie B.

“The government didn’t have any desire to and no interests in intervening in sports justice,” government undersecretary and sports delegate Giancarlo Giorgetti told the Gazzetta dello Sport. “We were forced to take an initiative because nobody was meeting the interests of the clubs.”

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Rapids name Robin Fraser as head coach

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (AP) The Colorado Rapids have named former Major League Soccer player and longtime assistant Robin Fraser as their head coach.

Fraser steps in for Conor Casey, who’s been the interim coach since the team fired Anthony Hudson in May. Colorado is 7-14-6 and at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

Fraser’s first match in charge will be Saturday at the New York Red Bulls.

The 52-year-old Fraser has served as an assistant coach at Toronto FC since 2015.

Fraser was the fourth overall pick in the 1996 MLS player draft by the Los Angeles Galaxy. Over his career, Fraser suited up for the Galaxy, the Rapids and the Columbus Crew. He said in a statement Sunday he considers Colorado home because he’s so familiar with the soccer community.

Rapids general manager Padraig Smith said Fraser has a “deep knowledge of what it takes to be successful in MLS.”

Pochettino upset with attacking stars, speaks on Eriksen status

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Mauricio Pochettino might’ve understood Tottenham Hotspur dropping points last week at Man City, but he didn’t plan on not taking anything from Newcastle United on Sunday at home.

“You need the capacity to step up in this type of situation but we didn’t show that quality today,” Pochettino said. “When the ball arrives in the last third you need something from the talent and quality we have there and today we didn’t have that.”

[ RECAP: Spurs 0-1 Newcastle | Bruce reacts ]

So that’s pretty straight forward, but Pochettino was less happy to answer the question of why he didn’t start Christian Eriksen. Some (read: this writer) have questioned the philosophy of putting a man you may sell for $50 million on the bench. Either put him in the Starting XI and risk him, or leave him off the 18.

“When you lose, the players who don’t play are the best. With Christian we win and we lose a lot of games. I accept that situation is like this. If we won 3-0 today no one talks about different names.

“I cannot find excuses about the transfer window being open to justify that performance or the result. We cannot find the way to be solid and to have consistency for different reasons. I am going to be happy in 10 days after we play Arsenal when the transfer window closes in Europe and to have the player involved until the transfer window again in January.”

We’re not gonna read too much into it, but it does sound a bit like Pochettino is daring teams to bid for Eriksen. Would it make sense for him to hold onto Eriksen until January before cashing in?

Newcastle’s Bruce heard criticism, happy to beat Spurs

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Steve Bruce heard a lot of the criticism from fans upon his hiring at Newcastle United, and it rang out louder after the Magpies started 0-2 including a loss at newly-promoted Norwich City.

[ RECAP: Spurs 0-1 Newcastle ]

He may well hear plenty more down the road, but the childhood Newcastle supporter was feeling relieved and maybe redeemed after a fortunate and wonderful 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday. From the BBC:

“We came to this fantastic stadium, this fantastic club and we performed. I mean, to say I ‘cannot even do a warm up’ is mad. I have managed 900-odd games and over the years you would think there would be some sort of respect but I go back to the fact that whoever took over from Rafa Benitez was going to get the abuse.”

Newcastle faces struggling Watford at St. James’ Park next week, and another result will ease a lot of nerves (though certainly not all of them.

Wolves snatch late point versus Burnley

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Raul Jimenez’s penalty seven minutes into stoppage time gave Wolves a point with a 1-1 draw against Burnley on Sunday at the Molineux Stadium.

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Wolves now have three draws in three matches, while Burnley has four points.


Three things

  1. We’re paying rent in Ashley Barnes‘ world — Known most for his combustible, some-would-say dirty nature, the Burnley striker now has four goals this early season and more than one, including Sunday’s opener, have been bangers.
  2. Nuno’s men could use a break — Wolves fought well, but you can tell the Europa League schedule has heavily taxed their spirit. How tired are they? Here are the thoughts of an exhausted Raul Jimenez, and you can read the “Thank you, God” inside them –> “I think [the penalty] is the right decision. When I get in possession he tried to kick the ball, then he kicked me. It came at a good moment for us.”
  3. Don’t ever bet against Sean Dyche — We’ve written it 100 times. The big man can get a result from anywhere, at any time.

Burnley was easily the better unit over the first 45 minutes, and was rewarded with a goal even after VAR ruled one out.

Barnes chested a neatly-headed flick into shooting position and unleashed a missile that zipped past Rui Patricio for a 1-0 lead.

Both sides began the second half brightly, with Morgan Gibbs-White lashed a shot offf the outside of the netting and Barnes unable to get purchase on a ball over the top of the Wolves back line.

But Erik Pieters cut down Jimenez in the box late to set the Mexican international up for a win.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]