Walter Mazzarri

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Europa League preview: Torino peeved at ref crew v. Wolves

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Serie A side Torino is here for the mind games, and claims Wolves will have an unfair advantage due to the referee appointments for Thursday’s Europa League playoff round first leg.

[ MORE: UCL qualifying wrap ]

Wolves will head to the Olimpico di Torino for the first leg, and Torino is reportedly “bewildered” that UEFA has appointed Portuguese referees for the match because Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo and seven of his first team players hail from Portugal.

The head referee, Artur Soares Dias, has worked numerous high-profile games deep into the Europa League, Champions League, and EURO qualifying.

Nuno doesn’t care.

“We represent the colours of Wolverhampton, it’s an English team,” he said. “Our native language is English, everybody speaks English to each other. There is no issue.”

Torino has also cruised through the qualifying rounds and has not had the benefit of being tested by league play. Serie A begins this weekend.

Kickoff is at 3 p.m. Thursday, with the second leg at the Molineux set for Aug. 29 at 2:45 p.m. ET. The winner qualifies for the UEL group stage.

Also in action this Thursday are a few North Americans. Among them: Romain Gall is coming off a league goal for Malmo, and may start at home to Israeli Premier League side Bnei Yehuda.

Timothy Chandler remains a part of Eintracht Frankfurt’s crew and will be in France to meet Strasbourg, while Brooklyn-born Canadian striker Jonathan David is with Gent against Rijeka.

The rest of the post may deliver entertainment based on the schedule. The UEL main stage provides some unusual names from the European landscape, so it’s even wilder prior to that.

Thursday’s Europa League playoff round first legs

Astana v. BATE Borisov — 10 a.m. ET
Avan Academy v. Dudelange — 11 a.m. ET
FK Suduva v. Ferencvaros — 1 p.m. ET
Malmo v. Bnei Yehuda — 1 p.m. ET
Feyenoord v. Hapoel Beer-Sheva — 1:30 p.m. ET
Ludogorets v. Maribor — 1:30 p.m. ET
Copenhagen v. Riga — 1:45 p.m. ET
AEK Athens v. Trabzonspor — 2 p.m. ET
Legia Warsaw v. Rangers — 2 p.m. ET
FCSB v. Vitoria — 2:30 p.m. ET
Gent v. Rijeka — 2:30 p.m. ET
PSV Eindhoven v. Apollon Limassol — 2:30 p.m. ET
Strasbourg v. Eintracht Frankfurt — 2:30 p.m. ET
AZ Alkmaar v. Antwerp — 2:30 p.m. ET
Celtic v. AIK — 2:45 p.m. ET
Linfield v. Qarabag — 2:45 p.m. ET
Braga v. Spartak Moscow — 2:45 p.m. ET
Espanyol v. Zorya — 3 p.m. ET
Torino v. Wolves — 3 p.m. ET
Partizan v. Molde — 3 p.m. ET
Slovan Bratislava v. PAOK — 3 p.m. ET

Palace job still open; Who can end the merry-go-round?

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Steve Parish is tired of hiring new managers, and this time wants to nab a lifer for the Crystal Palace managerial post.

“We do not really want someone who sees it as a stepping stone,” said the Palace chairman.

[ MORE: Everton to snag bargain Sandro? ]

Saying he’d like to find a man who appreciates Palace’s style of play and wants to grow the club, Parish expounded the virtues of his potential boss on Sirius XM’s FC show.

“We have got a personnel and a way of playing. It has served us well. Do we try and change that again? That will inform probably where we go on the list of managers. After that you are just looking for somebody who has got a long-term view for the club.”

In 112 years of play, the club has hired exactly one manager from outside Wales, Scotland, England, and Ireland, and the bettors’ favorite for the job is Burnley man Sean Dyche. Also on that list with decent odds are Garry Monk and Roy Hodgson.

At 69, that last name doesn’t fit the bill of a long-term solution (though it’s energy, not age, that would dictate that).

Some other ideas who could fit Palace’s bill, especially if they are open to heading away from the island in terms of nationality (and one Brit, too).

  • Jaap Stam — The Reading boss has had an outstanding debut as First Team manager, and is well-connected in terms of the transfer market.
  • Thomas Tuchel — Would the ex-BVB man be willing to dip down from the Champions League to challenge his predecessor Jurgen Klopp and old nemesis Pep Guardiola in the Premier League?
  • Nigel Clough — Currently with Burton Albion, a club he also played for, would he relish a chance at the PL?
  • Walter Mazzarri or Quique Flores — Both kept Watford in the Premier League, and both were victims of the notoriously short-sighted Hornets.

Walter Mazzarri won’t return to Watford next season

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Watford has avoided falling out of the Premier League in 2016/17, but the club is still going to be making some changes this summer.

[ MORE: PST talks to Southampton chairman Paul Krueger ]

The club announced on Wednesday that manager Walter Mazzarri won’t return to Vicarage Road next season after taking over at Watford in July 2016.

The Hornets released the following statement on Wednesday regarding the decision:

“After the Board discussed with Walter Mazzarri the club’s future goals and aspirations, it was decided he will be stepping down from his position as the club’s Head Coach after the final game of the 2016/17 season.

“We thank Walter and his staff for the contribution they have made to Watford Football Club over the past year.”

Mazzarri will manage Watford’s final PL match of the season against Manchester City on Championship Sunday.

In his time with the Hornets, Mazzarri racked up 11 PL wins en route to accumulating 40 points with one match remaining in the English calendar.

Watford is in its second consecutive PL season since being promoted from the Championship following the 2014/15 campaign.

Premier League Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Watford

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  • Spurs won 4-1 on New Year’s Day
  • Watford last won at WHL in 1994 League Cup
  • Spurs lead all-time 19W-3D-6L

Harry Kane could return for Tottenham Hotspur when the Premier League begins its weekend slate with a 7:30 a.m. EDT kickoff vs. Watford at White Hart Lane on Saturday (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

“I haven’t decided yet if he’ll be in the starting 11 or on the bench but the good thing is that he’s back,” said Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino.

That’s good news, but Tottenham’s performance has meant it’s more a bonus than a relief. Spurs went 3-0 without Kane, scoring multiple goals in wins over Southampton, Burnley and Swansea City.

That last result was marvelous, as Swans scored thrice in the final moments of the match to overcome an early deficit and keep pace with Chelsea in the race for the Premier League crown.

Watford is in a bad way, with suspended Miguel Britos joining Younes Kaboul and Sebastian Prodl as injured defenders. That’s just the back line, as Walter Mazzarri has six key players in doubt for the game and three more ruled out.

What they’re saying

Spurs backstop Michel Vorm on coming back to beat Swans“You see the power of Tottenham: it’s the team and the squad. We just kept on attacking and believing and you’ve seen the strength of our squad, we are a whole team.”

Watford manager Walter Mazzarri on their injury crisis“It’s our destiny. Against Tottenham, we are always in an emergency. Britos was important because Kaboul and Prodl were injured and we do not have a defense now.”

Prediction

It would take a brave soul to bet on Watford to find a point. We’re not that brave. Spurs 4-0.

Mazzarri believes Watford deserved to advance in FA Cup

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Watford boss Walter Mazzarri saw his Hornets dumped out of the FA Cup by Championship club Millwall, beaten 1-0 on an 85th minute goal by Steve Morison.

Mazzarri has been under some pressure, without a Premier League win since early December and just a Cup win over Burton Albion over that span in any competition. He claims that Watford was unlucky to lose in such a manner, and that calls for his departure are unfounded, but part of the job.

The 55-year-old was most perturbed by a non-call in the penalty area just after halftime. “I think if someone deserved to win, especially in the second half, it was Watford also because of the penalty [challenge on Stefano Okaka not given by referee] and a lot of the fouls which were not conceded in our favor.”

Mazzarri was asked to respond to fans who might be calling for his job. “I am the most disappointed and I am sorry for them,” he said. “But I am even more sorry than them in this moment. In the FA cup there are many games and not only Watford has left the cup, but many important teams. It’s normal, it can happen that one game doesn’t go your way. Now we have to concentrate and look to the following games.”

It doesn’t get any easier for Watford moving forward, set to face Arsenal on Tuesday in Premier League play.