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JUST IN: Napoli Sack Coach Mazzarri Ahead Of Barcelona Clash

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Walter Mazzarri has been sacked by Napoli to become the second man sent packing by the ailing Italian champions this season, Italian media reported on Monday.

The 62-year-old took charge in November after Rudi Garcia was dismissed but Napoli have since fallen to ninth in Serie A ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League last 16 clash with Barcelona.

Slovakia national team coach Francesco Calzona is set to be hired until the end of the season and will be in charge for the first-leg visit of Barca.

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Calzona guided Slovakia to Euro 2024 but has a huge job on his hands as he returns to Napoli where he was an assistant during Luciano Spalletti’s trophy-less first season with the club.

READ ALSO: Transfer: Balotelli Offers Himself To Struggling Napoli

Calzona will reportedly keep his job with Slovakia and bring with him Marek Hamsik, Napoli’s top all-time appearance maker who was also the first man to beat Diego Maradona’s scoring record for the club.

Napoli romped to a historic third Scudetto last term but since title-winning coach Spalletti stepped down in the close season, chaos has reigned in Naples.

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Napoli are a whopping 27 points behind league leaders Inter Milan after winning just four of 12 league matches since Mazzarri took over, collecting 15 points.

That is even less than the 21 that Garcia managed from his 12 league matches in charge, a total that had Napoli fourth when the Frenchman was dismissed.

The chances of Napoli getting back into the top four and next season’s revamped Champions League are exceedingly slim, even if Italy wins a fifth spot.

READ ALSO: Napoli Sack Coach Rudi Garcia, Appoints New Helmsman

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Napoli are nine points behind both fourth-placed Atalanta and Bologna in fifth, and have shown little sign of being able to claw back that gap, failing to score in nine of Mazzarri’s matches in all competitions.

It is a disappointing end to Mazzarri’s brief second spell in charge of Napoli, after helping return southern Italy’s biggest club to the upper echelons of Italian football between 2009 and 2013.

Mazzarri guided Napoli to the 2012 Italian Cup, beating undefeated league champions Juventus in the final to win the club’s first trophy in over two decades.

He left in May 2013 after finishing second in Italy’s top flight with a thrilling team which boasted Ezequiel Lavezzi, Marek Hamsík and Edinson Cavani in attack.

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Meet The Invincibles: See Three Football Teams Unbeaten In One Season

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Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen of 2023-24 stand on the cusp of greatness, with just 11 matches theoretically between them and a record undefeated season for a top-five European league team.

Of the 42 matches they have so far played this campaign, they have won 37, drawn five and lost a grand total of zero.

Bayer could win the Bundesliga for the first time in their history this weekend when they take on Werder Bremen, while they won their Europa League quarter-final first leg against West Ham 2-0 and face second-division Kaiserslautern in the German Cup final on May 25.

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Should their record stay unblemished across their remaining fixtures in all three competitions they will become the first side to go a full season undefeated both domestically and in European competition.

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It is a scenario few, if any, would have ever predicated at the start of the season, with German giants Bayern Munich having won the last 11 league titles and no Bundesliga team ever even completing a domestic league season without losing at least once.

In the history of the sport worldwide, many teams have gone an entire league season without losing, such as Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal “Invincibles” of 2003-04, but to do it across multiple competitions is rarified territory.

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AFP Sport highlights three teams that completed a full season without tasting defeat across several competitions:

– Al Ahly –

Egyptian giants Al Ahly won the league and the CAF Champions League without any losses in 2004-05, but were denied from completing the treble only by a penalty shoot-out elimination in the Egypt Cup after their round of 16 tie ended in a draw.

READ ALSO: BREAKING: Lagos Court Grants Emefiele N50m Bail

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That season in the league, they finished a staggering 31 points clear of second-placed Enppi SC and failed to win only two of 26 matches.

The dominant double was made all the sweeter by a CAF Champions League semi-final victory against bitter Cairo rivals Zamalek by an aggregate score of four goals to one.

– Preston North End –

One must go back to the 19th century to find such an example in the English game, indeed all the way back to the very advent of the English League in 1888.

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Preston North End won a league and cup double in the 1888-89 season, which saw them go undefeated through 22 league matches and claim the FA Cup final 3-0 against Wolverhampton Wanderers at London’s Kennington Oval.

– Johor Darul Ta’zim –

Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim completed an undefeated domestic quadruple in the 2023 Malaysian season.

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With the domestic league and cup running from February to December 2023, Johor Darul Ta’zim won a staggering 37 out of 38 games on their way to claiming the country’s Super Cup, Piala Malaysia Cup, FA cup and league title.

Sadly, their domestic dominance didn’t translate to the bigger challenges of the Asian Champions League where they won three group games but lost three.
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BREAKING: O.J. Simpson, Ex-football Star Acquitted Of Murder, Ries At 76

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O.J. Simpson, the star NFL football player whose 1995 acquittal in the so-called “trial of the century” for the brutal murders of his wife and a male friend gripped the world, has died at the age of 76, his family announced.

On April 10, our father, Orenthal James Simpson, succumbed to his battle with cancer,” a message signed by the family said on social media site X.

READ ALSO: BREAKING: Rivers Police Kill Gang Leader Who Murdered Rivers CDC Chairman

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Details later…

AFP

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JUST IN: Premier League To Introduce Semi-automated Offside Technology

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The Premier League will introduce semi-automated offside technology next season in the hope of reducing the time it takes to make VAR decisions.

At a shareholders’ meeting on Thursday, top-flight clubs unanimously agreed to introduce the system, which is expected to cut the average length of a VAR check for offside by about 30 seconds.

“The technology will provide quicker and consistent placement of the virtual offside line, based on optical player tracking, and will produce high-quality broadcast graphics to ensure an enhanced in-stadium and broadcast experience for supporters,” a Premier League statement said.

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Football’s global governing body FIFA used semi-automated offside technology at the 2022 men’s World Cup in Qatar after running a series of trials, including at the Club World Cup.

Referees will still need to make calls on subjective elements, such as whether a player in an offside position is interfering with play.

The Premier League has not disclosed the technology partner it will work with and it is understood that no contracts have yet been signed.

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The intention is to introduce the technology after one of the international breaks in September, October and November.

AFP

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