Daily Archives: April 3, 2017

Antonio Conte: Chelsea’s defeat makes title race interesting

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Chelsea coach Antonio Conte said that his team’s surprise home defeat to Crystal Palace was a clear indicator that the Premier League title race is interesting again and far from over.

Chelsea held a commanding 10-point advantage on top of the Premier League against title rivals Tottenham Hotspurs before their 2-1 defeat by Palace at Stamford Bridge.

The leaders were also on a club-record 13-match winning streak at home, but it all ended thanks to a team fighting against relegation for months, with Spur’s victory at Burnley trimming Chelsea’s advantage at the top to seven points.

“For (the media) it’s a good result, because it makes this more interesting in the championship,” Conte said.

“But I always said the league finishes when you have the mathematical certainty that you won. Otherwise you must play every game to try to win because, I repeat, in England easy games do not exist. In every game here, anything can happen because the league is so strong.”

“We faced a team with strong players, very good players, and they showed they are a good team.

“But we have to think about the next game. If we had won we would have been happy, but now we must focus on Manchester City. We all know the strength of their team.”

“So we must recover and rest, and remember that in England there are no easy games. You could see that today against Crystal Palace. Every game will be very tough from now until the end. Also, if the team is Manchester City or a side fighting in the relegation zone.”

Chelsea hosts Manchester City on Wednesday with Conte now needing an immediate response from his players. Their lead on top of the table, while still imposing, could be further reduced if Tottenham wins at Swansea on the same day.

Juventus held by Napoli as fans jeered Higuain

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Gonzalo Higuain was jeered on his first return to Napoli, where Serie A leaders Juventus were held to a 1-1 draw.

Higuain, 29, left Stadio San Paolo in a stormy transfer affair last summer to join Napoli’s title rivals Juve for €90 million on the back of a 36-goal season.

The Argentinian is expected to feature in Naples’ Stadio San Paolo again for a Coppa Italia semifinal showdown on Wednesday, although he was largely anonymous in the face of an extremely hostile reception from his former fan base.

Sami Khedira helped matters by boosting Juve into a seventh-minute lead with an inspiring one-two with Miralem Pjanic.

But Napoli, the better side throughout the game, grabbed a deserved equaliser through captain Marek Hamsik on the hour as the Slovakian converted Dries Mertens’s reverse pass.

Another back-pass, this time with Kwadwo Asamoah playing the supplier, saw Mertens beat goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon — but the Belgian found the woodwork from a tight angle and Juve was able to hold on.

The draw gap between the clubs remains 10 points, meaning Napoli stand little chance of catching the Bianconeri over the eight Serie games left this season. Only Roma, who won 2-0 against Empoli retain a fringe chance of denying Juve a sixth straight Scudetto after cutting their lead to five.

Wenger pledges Arsenal stay, says “retirement is dying”

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Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has stated his desire to keep his job next season as he believes “retirement is dying” for people of his age.

Wenger’s tenure as Gunners manager came under heavy scrutiny and criticism after the team slipped to sixth in the Premier League following four consecutive defeats, including a 10-2 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

But the Frenchman, who has been at Arsenal since 1996, said: “I will not retire.”

His contract expires at the end of the season but the club has offered him a new two-year deal.

“Retiring is for young people,” said Wenger, speaking before Sunday’s league match at home to Manchester City. “For old people retirement is dying. I still watch every football game. I find it interesting.”

The match against City culminated in a 2-2 draw, which broke Arsenal’s losing streak but kept the team at sixth place.

Wenger, 67, is currently in his 21st year as Arsenal manager; he has not led the Gunners to a Premier League title in 13 years.

“Of course I’m as hungry,” he said. “I carry a bit more pressure on my shoulders than 20 years ago — but the hunger is exactly the same.”

“I hate defeat. I can understand the fans that are unhappy with every defeat but the only way to have victory is to stick together with the fans and give absolutely everything until the end of the season, that’s all we can do.”