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Napoli sack coach Garcia, rehire Mazzarri

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Napoli have announced the dismissal of coach Rudi Garcia after just 16 games in the job and the return of Walter Mazzarri.

President Aurelio De Laurentiis confirmed the decision to sack Garcia just over three months into the season, with a contract that was due to run until June 2025.

“Societá Sportiva Calcio Napoli have decided to remove Mr Rudi Garcia from the role of head coach. We thank him and his staff for the collaboration shown until now,” read a statement.

As is then tradition, President De Laurentiis announced the new coach before the official club account, with a simple message: ‘Welcome back Walter!’

The French tactician was only drafted in over the summer after Luciano Spalletti walked away, having won the club’s first Scudetto in over 30 years.

Garcia oversaw 16 competitive matches between Serie A and the Champions League, resulting in eight wins, four draws and four defeats.

The last couple of games proved decisive, as Napoli were held to a 1-1 home draw by Champions League whipping boys Union Berlin, then lost 1-0 to an Empoli side who were in penultimate place.

The 59-year-old was making his return to Serie A, having already been the coach of Roma from 2013 to January 2016.

That was followed by experiences at Olympique Marseille, Olympique Lyonnais and Al-Nassr.

As for Mazzarri, he was at Napoli from October 2009 to May 2013.

It was followed by experiences at Inter, Watford, Torino and most recently Cagliari, ending in May 2022.

Mazzarri won the Coppa Italia for Napoli in 2011-12, overseeing 89 wins, 49 draws and 44 defeats.

While De Laurentiis had met with Igor Tudor yesterday, it was widely reported talks fell down because the Croatian wanted a contract to June 2025, whereas Mazzarri is prepared to accept a deal to the end of this season.

That can then leave Napoli free to line up Antonio Conte.

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European Leagues

Tella Helps Leverkusen Break Bayern’s Record After Win Against Mainz

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Nathan Tella was in action for Bayer Leverkusen who secured a hard fought 2-1 win against Mainz in the Bundesliga on Friday night.

Tella came on in the 83rd minute and helped Leverkusen hold on to their lead and claim the three points.

His Nigerian teammate Victor Boniface is still out with injury.

The win means Leverkusen stretched its lead to 11 points over champions Bayern Munich in the league table.

Also, Xabi Alonso’s men set a German record of 33 games unbeaten across all competitions.

Former Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka fired Leverkusen into a third-minute lead, after letting fly from outside the penalty area for his first goal on his 31st appearance for the club.

But Dominik Kohr replied for the visitors with a header at the other end four minutes later.

In the 68th minute Leverkusen went 2-1 up thanks to Robert Andrich’s harmless-looking shot which Mainz keeper failed to hold.

With 10 minutes left Mainz were reduced to 10 men when Jessic Ngankam was sent off after a VAR check for a dangerous tackle on Xhaka.

Bayern Munich could reduce the 11-point gap to eight if they beat Leipzig on Saturday.

Meanwhile, 11 rounds of fixtures would remain after this weekend.

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If I score, I won’t celebrate it – says Ramos ahead of Real Madrid clash

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Sergio Ramos will return to the Santiago Bernabeu for the first time since he left Real Madrid in 2021 to join PSG, when he lines up for Sevilla on Sunday.

The veteran defender won five La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues in his 16-year spell at Real, scoring 101 goals in 671 appearances.

Ramos, back at boyhood club Sevilla, says he will not celebrate if he scores.

“I wouldn’t celebrate but if I happen to score and it was enough for us to win I would be delighted, those three points would be very good for us,” Ramos told the La Liga website.

Ramos is aware of the difficulty of the match for Sevilla against the league leaders, Real Madrid, who approach the game after drawing in Vallecas and having a week without matches.

“Real Madrid is always the favorite to win everything. They’re in a good moment, leading the league, and have players of extraordinary magnitude and quality. We know very well the ground we’re going to step on, and we’ll try in one way or another to have a good game there,” he said.

he recalled how close they were in the first leg at the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán. “We played Madrid head-to-head, we had chances to win. Kepa made a very good save from my header that would have given us the victory. When the team is compact, we’re all together, we play with good intensity, and we press high, we’re a guerrilla team.”

Ramos didn’t reveal his plans for next season, proud of the decision he made to return to Sevilla after his adventure at PSG.

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Pep Guardiola admits Kevin De Bruyne is not ’100 per cent’

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The Belgian international sat out City’s 1-0 win over Brentford on Tuesday as the 32-year-old had some niggles. Ahead of Saturday’s trip to Bournemouth, Guardiola revealed De Bruyne “did not feel comfortable” playing against the Bees, but he is very likely to be in the squad for the clash against the Cherries.

The Spaniard told reporters on Friday: “He’s [De Bruyne] good – not injured. He’s better. I don’t know if he is 100 per cent but we took a good decision to not take a risk, apart from the result, if the result was not good, people would ask why he didn’t play. He didn’t feel comfortable.

“We have training at 4pm [Friday]. The day after the game he didn’t train and yesterday everyone was off, but he trained by himself. Today [Friday] we will assess. I am sure he will travel.”

City are still in the hunt for a second-straight treble (Champions League, FA Cup, Premier League) despite appearing to be at a lower level to where they were at this point last season. For much of the campaign they have been without the influential midfielder due to injury but when he is fit he makes a huge difference. Therefore, managing his minutes is key.

After City take on Andoni Iraola’s Bournemouth this weekend, Guardiola’s side travel to Luton Town in round five of the FA Cup on Tuesday. They then host rivals Manchester United on March 3 in the Premier League.

 

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