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Roma fires Eusebio Di Francesco amidst Ranieri reports

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AS Roma has fired manager Eusebio Di Francesco in the wake of a UEFA Champions League exit and league loss to rivals Lazio.

[ MORE: 2nd leg recap ]

“On behalf of myself and everyone at AS Roma, I’d like to thank Eusebio for his work and his commitment,” said Roma chairman Jim Pallotta. “Since returning to the club, Eusebio has always acted professionally and put the club’s needs ahead of his own. We all wish him well for the future.”

Di Francesco led Roma to a third-place finish last season and a berth in the UEFA Champions League semifinals. This year, i Lupi is in a battle for third and exited the UCL in the Round of 16, falling to Porto on Wednesday.

It’s a bit harsh on the former Roma player, who took over a club that sold Mohamed Salah and Antonio Rudiger and watched as Alisson Becker and Radja Nainngolan were sold this summer.

Claudio Ranieri is a rumored replacement for Di Francesco.

Reports: Roma seeks Ranieri to replace Di Francesco

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AS Roma is taking a “What have you done for me lately?” approach to its managerial position after losing to Porto in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16.

[ MORE: 2nd leg recap ]

A semifinalist one season ago, Eusebio Di Francesco will reportedly be fired by i Lupi after coughing up a 2-1 first leg lead in Portugal on Thursday.

And a former Premier League champion may be first in line to replace him.

Claudio Ranieri is the favorite to replace Di Francesco, and there’s talk that a managerial change could happen very soon despite some pleas to keep the current manager until the end of the Serie A season.

Cristian Panucci and Roberto Donadoni are also named as potential successors to Di Francesco.

Roma sold Alisson Becker, Radja Nainngolan, and Kevin Strootman last summer, and Mohamed Salah, Antonio Rudiger, and Leandro Paredes the prior summer.

Di Francesco led a 3rd place Serie A run last season, losing in the Coppa Italia Round of 16, and the UCL semifinals v. Liverpool. This season, Roma is again battling for third, and lost in the Coppa’s quarterfinals, and UCL Round of 16.

Ranieri was fired by Fulham last month as the Premier League outfit labors in the relegation zone, and served in the same position at Nantes after leading Leicester City to its amazing PL title.

He’s played and managed Roma, leading a Serie A title push for the club in 2010 (ultimately falling short to Inter Milan).

The firing would be harsh on Di Francesco, who came within an extra time penalty of penalty kicks and another UCL quarterfinal. He would become one of the top available managers on the market.

Chelsea players Luiz, Azpilicueta, Rudiger open up on Kepa defiance

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Chelsea players all over the pitch tried to play mediator as goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga shockingly refused to be substituted towards the end of the Carabao Cup final on Sunday.

While Kepa shocked manager Maurizio Sarri with his act of defiance, others looked to calm the situation. Defender David Luiz was first on the scene, approaching Kepa during the confusion and speaking in his ear while the goalkeeper looked to the bench.

[ WATCH: Kepa clashes with Sarri by refusing sub ]

“I told him to respect the decision of the coach,” Luiz told the media after the match. “But, I don’t know if the coach wanted to change him because he was feeling pain or it was his [tactical] decision. I think the coach he wished to do the substitution because of the injury, he didn’t understand that [Kepa was ok].”

Fellow center-back Antonio Rudiger was on hand as well to calm Sarri as the boss looked to have angry words with his goalkeeper during the break before penalties. However, he wasn’t in a sharing mood after the match as the media looked to get his view of the events.

[ MORE: Sarri, Kepa explain Carabao Cup “misunderstanding” ]

“This is something the coach and the player have to speak about,” Rudiger said. “I cannot say much about it. I think, for sure, the coach and the goalkeeper will speak about it and everything will be fine.”

However, many Chelsea fans noted that captain Cesar Azpilicueta was nowhere to be found during the heated moments. That’s because, he says, he was on the opposite end of the field. “Honestly I don’t know because I was on the other side of the pitch so I cannot comment on this incident,” he said to Sky Sports. There was plenty of discontent after the match about Azpilicueta’s lack of response, with fans believing the captain should be the first to step in and help calm the situation.

Azpilicueta has never been an outspoken or fiery individual, but has worn the captain’s armband the entire season, having played every single minute in Premier League play and nearly every minute of the whole Carabao Cup run. He is not yet the official full-time captain, but has worn the armband all season with captain Gary Cahill out of the squad. It would have been difficult to not notice the incident at all, even if “on the other side of the pitch,” because the verbal back-and-forth lasted a good two full minutes and presented a massive delay in the match. Nevertheless, the captain pled the fifth to explain why he wasn’t involved, and it will be interesting if Sarri not only disciplines Kepa for his public display of insubordination, but also Azpilicueta for not fulfilling his role as captain.

Insane finish sees Man City win League Cup in penalties

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  • Man City wins sixth League Cup
  • Chelsea fails to put shot on target
  • Kepa refuses to sub off before PKs

After 120 minutes of scoreless play, the League Cup Final between Chelsea and Manchester City went down to penalty kicks.

A series of penalties with chaos embedded in them due to a bust-up between Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri and goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga after the latter refused to sub out of the match in extra time.

Raheem Sterling‘s penalty ultimately clinched Manchester City’s sixth League Cup.

[ MORE: Lineups, play-by-play, box score ]

The start was tame, save a Sergio Aguero shot that was stopped by Kepa Arrizabalaga but headed wide of the goal.

The play lived in Chelsea’s end, but the Blues dealt well with the danger en route to a pair of late free kicks. Nicolas Otamendi nearly turned one inside his own goal, and a corner on the last breath of the half was blocked by Oleksandr Zinchenko.

[ MORE: Man Utd-Liverpool recap | 3 Things from OT ]

Eden Hazard earned a breakaway early in the second half only to be caught and tackled by Otamendi.

Aguero had the ball in the goal but was offside in the 56th.

Hazard blazed down the left wing again in the 66th minute, meeting a Willian and long ball and cooking Vincent Kompany before cutting back for N'Golo Kante. The Frenchman flew his chance over the goal.

Chelsea kept coming. Willian set up Ross Barkley for a curling effort with a bit too much loft to threaten Ederson.

Antonio Rudiger was fortunate to see yellow after a pair of fouls helped Man City to a 73rd minute free kick, the latter a scissoring tackle of the ball.

Hazard cued up Pedro for a prime 76th minute chance, but the Spaniard chose to pass rather than shoot and Zinchenko cut it out.

Ederson stopped a whipped Willian free kick in stoppage time, and Chelsea had a corner kick to avoid extra time. City handled it well enough.

Extra time was tame into the second frame, when Sterling danced down the end line and Chelsea defended desperately to force just a corner kick.

A sloppy sequence in the 117th minute allowed Aguero a shot from 20 yard that Arrizabalaga dove to control.

Then, with penalty kicks looming and Arrizabalaga twice down injured, Maurizio Sarri went apopletic when the keeper refused to come off for Wily Caballero. The sub board was up, but Arrizabalaga wouldn’t leave!

To kicks.

Jorginho‘s tame first effort was saved by Ederson. The next shots were goals.

Arrizabalaga then guessed correctly on Sergio Aguero, but the Argentine’s shot went through his gloves. After Emerson finished for Chelsea, Arrizabalaga saved Leroy Sane’s hit.

Then David Luiz hammered the goal post.

Sarri fumes as Kepa refuses Chelsea sub (video)

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Maurizio Sarri‘s team put in a fabulous performance in the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City. Willian, Eden Hazard, Jorginho, and the rest of the Blues squad gave their all on the Wembley pitch, a brilliant 120 minutes for Sarri who seemed to be nearing the end of his rope as manager of Chelsea.

It all went wrong at the end of extra time, in a moment that may prove the end of his tenure.

As extra time neared its close, goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who was risked in the final despite a recent hamstring injury, appeared to be clearly struggling after making a diving save on a Sergio Aguero effort on the doorstep of the goal mouth. With penalties nearing and the battle for a Champions League place heating up in league play, Sarri chose to make the substitution and save his first-choice to fight another day, bringing on 2016 substitute hero Willy Caballero.

Except the substitution never happened, because Kepa refused. In a show of player power that could prove Sarri’s ultimate downfall, Kepa outright refused to be substituted and won his way back onto the pitch. The young spaniard regained his footing and repeatedly gestured back to the bench that he was ok to continue. Sarri still decided to substitute his goalkeeper, to the point where Caballero was waiting on the touchline next to the fourth official who wondered whether to raise his board or not.

As the game was delayed by the confusion, Kepa stayed on the field, a bewildered Caballero wandered back to the bench, and Sarri – fuming over the incident – nearly left the field of play completely, only brought back by his own common sense, still muttering to himself in anger.

The situation continued to boil over as extra time came to a close and Kepa wandered back to the touchline to prepare for penalties. Sarri had to be consoled by defender Antonio Rudiger as he looked to have stern words with Kepa, as the goalkeeper mingled with his teammates, acting like nothing had happened.

In the ensuing shootout, Kepa had Sergio Aguero’s penalty saved to level the score, but the ball went straight through his hands. While there’s no telling if the injury had anything to do with the mistake, there’s no doubt the moment will only increase Sarri’s regret. On the next penalty, Kepa made a spectacular save on Leroy Sane’s decent effort. Unfortunately, the earlier mistake loomed large as David Luiz clattered the post and Manchester City won the shootout.

The moment could prove monumental in Sarri’s tenure as Chelsea manager. While Kepa will come out of this looking like the villain, the manager is still in charge, and his inability to bring a player off and assert his power as boss could prove his undoing. Sarri had multiple opportunities to force Kepa’s hand, but ultimately chose not to bring his goalkeeper off. Had the substitution board gone up with Kepa’s number, it’s then on the referees to get the player off under threat of caution or ultimately sending off. At the end of the day, it was Sarri’s decision not to withdraw his goalkeeper. Already on thin ice, his weakness in the face of player rebellion will go a long way to prove he’s lost the locker room at Stamford Bridge and lost control of his squad.