Alfred N’Diaye

Europa League roundup: Juventus eliminates Fiorentina; Sevilla needs penalty kicks to see out rival Betis

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Real Betis earned a shock win last week at the Sanchez Pizjuan, its 2-0 lead after leg one of its Europa League Round of 16 matchup with rival Sevilla giving the verdiblancos hope a run in Europe could overshadow a relegation-destined campaign. But Gabriel Calderón’s team is ultimately a 20th place side, which made Sevilla’s comeback today at the Estadio Benito Villamarín less remarkable than expected. After 90 minutes of the second Seville derby in eight days, the visitors had forced extra time with their own 2-0 result.

Thirty minutes later, the teams’ quarterfinals fates would be decided by penalty kicks. After Vitolo opened with a miss for Sevilla, each team make their next three, leaving Alfred N’Diaye’s miss to bring the rojiblancos even at the end of the fourth round. A conversation from Ivan Rakitic followed by a miss from Nono sent Unai Emery’s side through.

Form may go out the window in derbies, but over 180 minutes, talent has a better chance of shining through. After one leg, Real Betis were on the verge of seeing its rivals out of Europe. Seven days later, they’re the ones on the outside looking in, no longer holding out hope Europa can offset their inevitable return to the second division.

Elsewhere:

  • Anzhi Makhachkala 0-0 (0-1) AZ Alkmaar – Aron Johannsson’s early penalty kick in leg one ends up sending last year’s Dutch Cup winners into Europa’s final eight.
  • Valencia 1-0 (4-0) Ludogrets – The Bulgarians’ three-goal loss at home sealed their fate, with Pace Alcácer’s second half score that the Mestalla confirming their ouster.
  • Viktoria Plzen 2-1 (3-5) Olympique Lyonnais – Bafetimbi Gomis’s goal just before half time put Lyon up four. It also cancelled out the Czech champions’ away goal. Goals near the hour from Daniel Kolár and Stanislav Teci made the final more respectable.
  • Benfica 2-2 (5-3) Tottenham Hotspur – Much like in Plzen, an early goal confirmed the first leg’s lopsided result. Nacer Chadli, however, tried to bring Spurs back with a late brace only to see Lima’s 95th minute penalty kick conversation see Tottenham out of Europe.
  • Fiorentina 0-1 (1-2) Juventus – A piece of free kick magic from Andrea Pirlo saw Juventus take the lead in the 71st minute, with the 10-man Viola left short-handed after Gonzalez Rodríguez’s 69th minute dismissal.
  • Napoli 2-2 (2-3) Porto – Second half goals from Nabil Ghilas and Ricardo Quaresma left Porto up two after Goran Pandev’s early opener. Needing three goals to go through, the partenopei would only get Duván Zapata’s stoppage time consolation.
  • Red Bull Salzburg 1-2 (1-2) Basel – Held scoreless in leg one, Basel saw Marek Suchy sent off in the ninth minute. Soon after, Jonathan Soriano gave Red Bull a 1-0 lead. In the second half, though, a 10-man Basel saw Marco Streller score the decisive goal in the 50th minute, with Gaston Sauro adding insurance 10 minutes later.

Premier League transfer window grade: Sunderland

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Window Shopping: Going into the window, Sunderland looked like a team headed for the second division, a status that didn’t reflect their talent. Though they lack a superstar at any level of the field, the Black Cats have a decent number of options, depth owned in large part to a slew of summer moves (and the departure of all of Martin O’Neill’s spare parts). Like most bottom half teams, Sunderland can use some upgrades, but their talent is relatively strong compared to other teams battling relegation.

Now, in early February, that talent has started to shine through. Adam Johnson has stepped forward to provide some goal-scoring punch. Fabio Borini has claimed a consistent spot on the left. Phil Bardsley has reasserted himself as the team’s right back, while Jack Colback and Ki Sung-Yeung are fixtures in midfield. The difference between the Sunderland of Di Canio and Poyet’s surging side has been more about selection and execution than talent.

As such, Jan. 31 came without any major needs. Sunderland’s transfer window was less about filling holes than augmenting the Poyet’s new core (while trying to keep all their key parts in-house).

Players In: Marcos Alonso (Fiorentina, loan), Santiago Vergini (Fenix, loan), Oscar Ustari (Almería, loan), Ignacio Scocco (Internacional, $4.3 million), Liam Bridcutt (Brighton & Hove Albion, undislosed)

Players Out: Mikael Mandron (Fleetwood, loan), Cabral (Genoa, loan), Ji Dong-Wong (Augsburg, loan), Liam Marrs (Boston United, loan), Billy Knott (Port Vale, loan), Alfred N’Diaye (Real Betis, loan), Modibo Diakite (Fiorentina, loan), Danny Graham (Middlesbrough, loan)

RECAP: All the deals on deadline day

Grade: A-

Marcos Alonso’s loan from Fiorentina has already made a huge difference. The former Bolton Wanderer has been among Sunderland’s best players in each of his appearances, fitting in perfectly with how Poyet wants to play moving forward.

Long term, the Spaniard may not be the team’s most valuable addition, even if they manage to keep him. That honor could belong to Ignacio , who has been one of South America’s most sought after strikers since he was playing in the Argentine Primera. Sunderland managed to snare him for $4.3 million. Although Jozy Altidore’s play has improved and Steven Fletcher provides another viable option, Scoccio has the talent to be a starter in the Premier League. It’s just a matter of seeing if he adjusts (and if he can adjust this season).

Add in Ustari as a nice depth acquisition, Bridcutt already starting in central midfield, and the Black Cats finding homes for the likes of Cabral, Ji, Diakite and Graham, and it’s hard to image a more successful window. Everybody wants to see a big signings, but given the moves the Black Cats made this summer, that may not have been in the cards.

Instead, Poyet’s brought in three of four key additions while keeping all his core components. That’s a successful window.

Premier League Preview: Sunderland

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Each day from now until the beginning of the Premier League season, we will preview two teams from England’s top flight. You can view them all here at PST Preview central. Don’t forget, the 2013-14 PL season begins on August 17th, and for the first-time ever you can watch every game live on NBC Sports. 

Last season Sunderland managed to stave off relegation from the Premier League, just. They finished 17th in 2012-13 and since returning to England’s top flight in 2007-08, the Black Cats have finished in the top 10 once. Sunderland’s fierce rivals are Newcastle United with the Tyne-Wear derby (played since 1898) one of Europe’s most famous and passionate derbies. Just 12 miles separate the two teams and it’s simple in England’s North East: you’re either a Mackem (Sunderland) or a Geordie (Newcastle). Sunderland’s have won six First Division titles—in 1892, 1893, 1895, 1902, 1913, and 1936—and the FA Cup twice, in 1937 and 1973. They play at the Stadium of Light, which has a capacity of 49,000.

Transfers In: Cabral (Basle), Modibo Diakite (Lazio), Valentin Roberge (Maritimo) , David Moberg Karlsson (IFK Goteborg), Vito Mannone (Arsenal), Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), El Hadji Ba (Le Havre), Emanuele Giaccherini (Juventus)

Transfers Out: Titus Bramble, Matthew Kilgallon (Blackburn Rovers), Ryan Noble, Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Ahmed Elmohamady (Hull City), Danny Graham (Hull City), Alfred N’Diaye (Eskisehirspor)

Key Player: This is a player US soccer fans know all about: Jozy Altidore (pictured). After his $13 million move from AZ Alkmaar, big things are expected of Altidore in the Premier League. The chance to spearhead Sunderland’s attack will be tough but Altidore wants to prove his critics wrong as he gives England’s top flight another crack. After previous PL disappointment at Hull City, Altidore has settled into European soccer and will have plenty of support from the likes of Stephane Sessegnon and Steven Fletcher.

source: Getty Images
Can USMNT striker Altidore deliver the goals Sunderland need?

The 23-year-old USMNT striker is Sunderland’s biggest summer signing and if he can keep his hot streak going, the Mackems can make the top 10. But it’s a huge step up from the Eredivisie to the Premier League. Can he succeed? Sunderland need him to.

Manager: Paolo Di Canio. Just a mention of his name and images of a possessed Italian gentleman in a sharply-cut suit marauding down the touchline are conjured up. But he’s about much more than his wild sideline gestures. Di Canio was an incredibly gifted player who played for Lazio, AC Milan, Napoli, Celtic and West Ham amongst others. He wears his heart on his sleeve and after managerial success in the lower-leagues with Swindon Town, Di Canio’s man-management style is his biggest plus. The 45-year-old Italian has made huge changes, bringing in 10 new faces and completely changing the soccer philosophy. Di Canio must deliver.

Outlook: Bringing in so many new players is a massive risk, but Di Canio is up for the challenge. This season could go either way as Sunderland may get off to a flying stat or be languishing by Christmas and waving goodbye to Di Canio. So I’m going to sit firmly on the fence and go for a mid-table finish. There will be plenty of growing pains, but this new squad is exciting. Expect the unexpected from the Black Cats.

MORE: Read all the Premier League previews for each team here