Inter caused Juventus problems, concedes Allegri

Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri acknowledged Inter caused the Serie A leaders problems despite the Nerazzurri going down 1-0 in Friday’s Derby d’Italia.

A second-half header from Mario Mandzukic earned a narrow victory at Allianz Stadium, ensuring Juve levelled the record for the most points collected, 43, after 15 games of a season in Europe’s top-five leagues.

Inter started well and had the better chances in the first half, with Roberto Gagliardini hitting the post with a shot that had Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny beaten.

But Mandzukic came up trumps with a header from Joao Cancelo’s left-wing cross to put Juve in an even more dominant position at the top of the Serie A table, despite Allegri accepting his side had to battle.

“Inter caused us problems in the first half, opening up with Joao Mario and Gagliardini, so we struggled to close them down,” Allegri said to Sky Sport Italia. “It’s also true the biggest chances of the first half came from us giving the ball away.

“I moved Mandzukic to the left, Paulo Dybala played much better and we had a very different performance in terms of intensity and pressure. We allowed Inter practically nothing in the second half and we had several more chances.

“Matteo Politano was putting pressure on, so I switched the full-backs to make the most of our characteristics and cover where needed, pushing on the other. Cancelo struggled a little with Politano in the first half, mainly the transitions.

“We’re working on Cancelo’s defensive approach and it must be recognised he has improved a great deal.

“I asked with the crosses to avoid Milan Skriniar and Joao Miranda, to work on the full-backs who were less physical than we were in those roles. It was a good cross to find Mandzukic.”

Allegri’s opposite number Luciano Spalletti was left frustrated by his side’s inability to use the ball properly, although he defended a quiet individual performance from captain and star striker Mauro Icardi.

“If someone takes the lead, of course it makes the difference, but we made too many banal and cheap errors,” Spalletti told Sky Sport Italia.

“There was one moment where we burst away and got behind their defence, but we failed to get the ball to the forwards. That can make the difference, as we struggle to be consistent for 90 minutes.

“There is always someone who is too slow, who talks too much, who is careless and not on the same page as the others.

“Unfortunately, Juve are smart and we are naive. They have a way of wasting five minutes after a foul.

“Icardi did what he had to do, he ran hard and to be honest did far better tonight than in other occasions to track back and get the ball, combining with the midfield.”

Victory moved Juventus 11 points clear of nearest rivals Napoli, who host Frosinone on Saturday, in the Serie A table.

But Allegri does not feel Juve, hunting an eighth consecutive Scudetto, are already assured of yet another title defence.

“We knew the championship would not end today,” Allegri added. “But we still absolutely had to avoid defeat.”

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That is not going to happen – Guardiola rejects Man City Hazard move

Pep Guardiola says a Manchester City move for Eden Hazard will not happen after the Chelsea star claimed he could improve the Premier League leaders.

Hazard has been among the top players in the Premier League this season and is yet to agree an extension to a Chelsea contract that expires in 2020.

The Belgium forward faces City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday with the Blues 10 points behind last season’s runaway title winners but suggested he would boost Guardiola’s options.

“It’s true they don’t have an Eden Hazard,” he said to Play Sports. “That is the difference.”

Despite an injury to striker Sergio Aguero, City’s attacking ranks are well-stocked and Guardiola rejected a suggestion Hazard could be a transfer target for the champions.

“That is not going to happen. No,” he told reporters.

Asked how dangerous Hazard could be to City’s defence, Guardiola added: “A lot. I’m agreeing with you. He said I’m so good that I’m agreeing with him.

“Switch on the TV, look at him, immediately you realise his qualities. You [the media] know his qualities better than me. He’s an exceptional player. One, by far, one of the best players in the world.”

At Stamford Bridge City will also face Jorginho, a player they reportedly tried to sign before the Italy midfielder opted to follow Maurizio Sarri from Napoli to Stamford Bridge.

Jorginho would have offered an alternative option to Fernandinho in City’s midfield but Guardiola is more than happy with the contribution of the 33-year-old Brazilian.

“For me it’s uncomfortable to speak about a player of another club. We know the history, we spoke about that before the Community Shield,” Guardiola said of Jorginho. “He decided to go there, I’m not going to say it’s a bad decision. He knows the manager, he knows the club.

“Chelsea’s an exceptional club, he decided that, all the best. He didn’t come to compete with Dinho, to be part of our team. What he has done, Fernandinho, not just this season all the years we have been together, is incredible. It’s really incredible.

“People speak with many players and I understand that but most of the good things we have in that moment is thanks to that guy. I’m very pleased for him and I’m pretty sure from his commitment, his personality, his many, many, things, he’s going to continue in that way.

“Few, few, few players can do what he does. Few, few players all around the world. He can do absolutely everything. He’s incredible. Really, he’s an incredible player.”

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Savarese poised to cap smooth transition to MLS with another title

Standing in the middle of the field at Atlanta Silverbacks Park five years ago, Giovanni Savarese couldn’t contain the smile he wore from ear to ear. One by one, New York Cosmos players, fans and the owner all made their way to congratulate Savarese for winning the storied club’s first championship in more than three decades. 

It mattered little that the triumph came in a small venue that could barely be called a stadium, where a small crowd of around 7,000 gathered to watch an Atlanta team in red and black lose a final to a Savarese-coached team clad in green.

Savarese is back in Atlanta once again, chasing another trophy, only the circumstances are much different this time around. There will be more than 70,000 fans packed inside the multi-billion dollar Mercedes-Benz Stadium to watch Saturday’s MLS Cup final, where Savarese’s Portland Timbers will try to stop heavily favored Atlanta United in a final that will be broadcast around the world, and seen by far more viewers than the last final Savarese contested in Atlanta.

That Savarese is set to coach in his fifth final in six seasons is a testament to his growing reputation as a manager, but it is his first season with the Timbers that has helped open more eyes to the quality coach Savarese has become. He took over a solid Portland team previously led by long-time coach Caleb Porter and succeeded in putting his own stamp on the squad in his very first season in charge.

“Every situation has its own challenges,” Savarese told Goal. “Whether you start fresh, or go to a situation where the club wasn’t doing well, or take over a team that was doing well, each scenario brings its own difficulties.

“Just because the team was successful doesn’t mean it was on a path I felt was the right path,” Savarese said. “There was a lot of work to be done. Players need to trust a coach, and need to know how a coach is, and how a coach works. Trust isn’t built overnight.”

Savarese’s early days with the Timbers weren’t easy. A five-game road trip to start the season presented a difficult starting point, and when the Timbers went winless in that stretch, the questions about whether Savarese had been the right choice immediately began to fly.

GFX Giovanni Savarese Photo PS 1

“When you become a coach I think a very important part is to be balanced emotionally and believe in what you do and the work you do,” Savarese said. “You need an organization that really believes in you and gives you the trust to continue to go forward.”

“I had concerns those first two games, but by the third game I felt like we were turning things around,” Savarese said of that early winless skid. “By the third or fourth game I felt like the win would come at any minute.”

The wins did eventually come, to the tune of a jaw-dropping 16-match unbeaten streak that quickly established the Timbers as a team to watch in the wide-open Western Conference. Savarese’s willingness to make tough lineup decisions, as well as deploy a variety of tactical approaches, helped him put his stamp on the team in a seamless way, without trying to completely change the team he inherited.

“He knew he was coming in with a group that was successful, so he didn’t come in talking about trying to revolutionize the Timbers, but he did come in and help us establish an identity that could help us win,” Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson told Goal.

“It took a coach with the self confidence, someone very secure, to come in and not try to change things overnight. He took his time establishing putting his own stamp on the team and you can see it now.”

Savarese PS

Savarese’s path to becoming a title-winning coach began during a long playing career that saw him travel the world playing in leagues from his native Venezuela to the United States, England and Italy. His interest in coaching, and eventually becoming a coach, began well before he retired as a player. After his playing days were over, Savarese continued to work in soccer, developing his coaching resume, and also gaining experiences that exposed him to the game at the highest level.

“I spent time working with Charlie Stilitano, spending time around big European clubs in America on tour,” Savarese said. “When teams would come to the United States, being with Barcelona, with Porto and Fiorentina, being able to be with them the whole tour, seeing how their coaches work, how their organizations work, being in Barcelona for a week, with Milan and Inter and seeing how they work. It all taught me so much. It helped me learn so much, and I’ve never stopped learning.”

Savarese’s journey wasn’t without its disappointments and setbacks. Perhaps the biggest one came a dozen years ago, when he was working as the well-respected director of the New York Red Bulls youth academy. When head coach Bruce Arena and technical director Jeff Agoos took over the Red Bulls in 2006 they decided there needed to be changes made throughout the organization. 

Savarese was eventually forced out of his role as academy director, and while his departure was painted publicly as a mutual decision, sources tell Goal Savarese was forced out. It was a crushing blow for Savarese, who was a fan favorite with the team as a player almost a decade earlier.

“The split at the time wasn’t a comfortable moment due to the fact that I was very passionate about what I was doing, and I was doing it for a club that I played for,” Savarese said. “I gave everything I had, and wanted to continue to give everything, so to split from the organization was difficult because of the passion I had for the job, and the club.”

It took Savarese some time to get over that disappointment, but he eventually re-established roots with the club known formerly as the MetroStars. He insists he never held a grudge over how things ended with the Red Bulls, even though it left him outside the professional game for several years before he joined the Cosmos. 

“I wouldn’t say that that sparked something in me that I wanted to prove anything because I’m not that way,” Savarese said. “I’m just a competitor, I compete. I don’t need any extra motivation to compete. I believe in what I do because I do it with passion. I know my strengths and weaknesses. It’s not about proving people wrong.”

Savarese stayed busy after leaving the Red Bulls, working in television while continuing to coach on the youth level. He eventually took over the Cosmos youth ranks before being hired as head coach and leading the club’s renaissance. His run of NASL titles sparked interest from several MLS teams, but a steep buyout clause in his contract scared teams away, as did the uncertainty over whether his NASL success could translate to MLS.

Nobody is asking those questions now after Savarese’s successful first season, which he feels has benefited more from the tough moments than the long unbeaten run earlier in the season. In fact, he points to Portland’s four-match losing streak in August as a needed period of adversity, one that helped him figure things out that eventually helped the Timbers in their run to the 2018 MLS Cup final.

“I think losing sometimes teaches more than winning, because sometimes when you win you let some things go because you’re getting results,” Savarese said. “When the results aren’t the ones you want you become critical.

“In that time, I learned more about my team. I learned how the team dealt with adversity. We needed to learn that we win together and lose together.”

GFX Giovanni Savarese Photo PS 3

It has been mostly winning in the months since that losing slide, capped by Portland’s improbable run through the Western Conference playoffs, which saw them eliminate three higher seeds on the way to Saturday’s final. Now Savarese will lead his Timbers against Atlanta United in front of a sold-out Mercedes-Benz Stadium in an atmosphere sure to be unlike any seen before in MLS, and one that will be a far cry from what Savarese could have imagined when he was coaching in Atlanta five years ago in his first NASL final.

“I wouldn’t have imagined that in Atlanta, definitely not five years ago,” Savarese told Goal. “To see things change here the way they have, big credit to Atlanta United for creating something so amazing. We’re going to enjoy it because we’re going to be able to play in front of a beautiful crowd. The team knows how special this opportunity will be.”

And so does Savarese, who will need only to think back to that first championship he won in this same city five years ago to remind him how far he has come.

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‘What happens if Guardiola had no time in City?’ – Sarri calls for patience from Chelsea

Maurizio Sarri has called for Chelsea’s board to be patient with him as he draws on the example of Pep Guardiola’s first season, when the Spaniard failed to win any trophies at Manchester City.

Chelsea prepare to face Man City on Saturday for the first time with Sarri as their coach, with the Italian’s side under increased pressure after back-to-back away defeats to Tottenham and Wolves.

The Blues are now on the brink of dropping out of the Champions League places ahead of the match against undefeated City, with Sarri’s men in fourth thanks to a superior goal difference over Arsenal.

Sarri thinks it was inevitable that Chelsea would suffer a blip as he overhauled their style of play and has called upon the club’s board to have patience with him. 

“You’ll have to ask the club,” Sarri said when asked if he will still be Chelsea manager at the end of the season. “I don’t know what to answer. I don’t know. What happens if Guardiola had no time in City?

“Maybe the best team in the world wasn’t City in the last year. I don’t know. It’s not my problem. My problem is to improve my players, to solve the situation, to solve problems, to try to gain a lot of points. Then there is the club that will decide what is better for them.”

Guardiola spent part of his summer holiday in Italy, where he went for dinner with Sarri and AC Milan’s legendary former manager Arrigo Sacchi.

Sarri had yet to join Chelsea as negotiations were ongoing, but the 59-year-old revealed the advice that the Man City manager gave him as they sat down at a hotel restaurant in Milan.

“He told me the first season in England is really very difficult. For him, it’s impossible to improve the first season 20 players. He told me, in the first season, you have to work only on 14 players otherwise you are in trouble. You need too much time to improve all the squad. In England, it’s really very difficult.

“But every history is different. You learn, of course, that the Premier League is a fantastic championship, but it’s really very difficult. Every match is difficult. Every match, also, if you are able to win, is very expensive from the mental and physical point of view.

“You have to play every three days. You have no time to work or improve the team, so it’s really a very difficult situation. You need a season just to understand the real situation here.”

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Guardiola’s success has not just been built on his coaching methods, as he has also been backed by his club to the tune of around £350 million ($446m) in the transfer market while at Man City. 

However, Sarri says he isn’t pushing his club to dip into the transfer window, even as his strikers struggle to hit the same heights as those at other top-six clubs.

“At the end of the day, I can tell you the position [where I would sign a player],” Sarri added. “But, before, we need the improvement of every player in the team and then, maybe, you are able to know the right position for changing the team.

“At the moment, we have Hazard with eight goals. We have Morata with seven goals, I think in the season, not the Premier League. Giroud with four goals. Pedro with five goals. It’s important to score, of course.

“If you have a player who is able to score every match, it’s really important, but I think that’s impossible. I was really very lucky three years ago in Naples because Higuain scored 36 goals in 34 matches, but that was something exceptional.

Sarri Higuain Atalanta Napoli Serie A

“It’s very difficult for a striker to score in every match. Every two is possible. In every match, it’s difficult for everybody. Also for [Mohamed] Salah, but last year he scored 32 goals. So it’s very difficult. If you have a player like this, you are lucky. But if you haven’t a player able to score in every match, you have to do something else.”

That other option for Chelsea could be a tactical adjustment, but Sarri said that he is a believer in his system and is planning on sticking with it. 

“It’s very easy to change [tactics] when you have to face a difficulty. But, at the end, if you believe in a style of play, you have to improve and you have to arrive to do very well this way of football. So the target is this, not to change in every match. To change the style of football, system, players … that’s not the right solution, I think.

“We need to work, we need to improve, we need to understand very well the style of playing. We need to change the mentality, not because the old mentality was bad. But it’s not suitable with the new way of playing. Then, after all this, maybe you do need one player.

“But the market is really very important when you understand that you need only one player in one position for changing the team. But you cannot think that you can buy 11 new players without problems. If you do, the problems will be the same.

“You have to create a new mentality and a new style of playing. We need to improve. We need to arrive at 95 per cent of our potential. And then we can get the last five per cent with a new player. With a new player, not 11 new players.”

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Juventus matches record start in Europe’s elite leagues with win over Inter

Juventus have made more history by equaling the best ever start to a league season thanks to Friday’s win over Inter Milan.

Mario Mandzukic’s second half goal was just enough for Juventus to seal a 14th win in 15 matches to open the Serie A season.

With the victory, Juventus have equaled the best start after 15 match-days in the top five European Leagues in the three-point era.

The club has dropped just two points all season, with the lone disappointment coming in a 1-1 match with Genoa on October 20.

The start matches that of Paris Saint-Germain, who also sat on 43 points ahead of Wednesday’s draw against Strasbourg.

PSG had won their first 14 games in Ligue 1 this season, before drawing Bordeaux in their 15th contest, then did the same against Strasbourg in their 16th. 

With the win, Juventus opened a 14-point lead over third-place Inter with Napoli sitting second on 32 points with a game in hand.

Overall, the club has scored 32 goals in 15 matches while conceding just eight times.

Mandzukic, in particular, has proven a lucky charm throughout his Juventus career as the club has won all 27 matches in which the Croatian has scored.

The striker has scored against Lazio, Napoli, Milan and Inter, giving him a goal against each of the other top five clubs in the league.

While Mandzukic was Friday’s hero, Juventus’ defense has been particularly stout in recent weeks. 

Following a run of three league games in a row with goals conceded, Juventus have kept a clean sheet in their last four matches.

Before Friday’s clash, Inter had scored in the club’s previous 10 Serie A games.

Next up for Juventus is Wednesday’s Champions League group stage finale with Young Boys before a return to Serie A against Torino next Saturday.

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