Serie A: Napoli closes gap on top as SPAL holds Juventus

Napoli closed the gap on top of Serie A to two points after a labored 1-0 win against Genoa and Juventus’ goalless draw against a struggling SPAL team.

Raul Albiol scored on his 200th appearance for Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo, although his team were made to work for a goal throughout the game.

Genoa, who started game off the back of two straight defeats, they started strong with Darko Lazovic stretching the home defence in the early stages before Dries Mertens sent Napoli’s first chance just wide.

However, the home side begin to feel frustration as their efforts up front went unrewarded — with Mertens hitting the woodwork, Allan missing a golden chance and Lorenzo Insigne also finding the bar with his header from a corner.

Albiol’s goal then came at a timely moment, with the defender rising above the Genoa defence to head home a Jose Callejon corner at the near post.

Napoli’s win meant that they were just two points behind Juventus, who were frustrated through their goalless stalemate against Napoli.

Despite their many attempts at goal, the Bianconeri simply could not break down their resolute opponents who are fighting for their Serie A survival, the point taking them out of the bottom three.

Still, Albiol insisted that Napoli should be focusing instead on themselves rather than pursuing Juve.

“After the international break we’ll have another crucial fixture with Sassuolo,” he said after the game. “They’re fighting for survival and will need those points. We need to keep doing what we’re doing — imposing our game on the opposition and keeping this mindset.

“To keep up with Juve we need to give everything and always try to win. Game by game we’ll try to stay at the top.”

Pep Guardiola fined for “act of defiance” over yellow ribbon

The English FA has fined Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola for wearing a yellow ribbon because he did so in an “act of defiance” despite warnings against it.

The FA wrote that it had sent Guardiola “numerous warning letters” in the explanation of the £20,000 fine against the Catalan native, and has also warned him about his future conduct.

Guardiola has accepted the FA charge of “wearing a political message” last week despite arguing that the symbol was “not about politicians, it’s about democracy” previously.

He also pledged to continue wearing the ribbon despite being charged for doing so last month.

The situation began when former Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona boss has said in November that he wore the ribbon to support imprisoned politicians in his native Catalonia, following a movement encouraging sympathisers with Catalan independence to display the yellow ribbon began in October.

Two key members of the Catalan independence movement — Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez — were held without bail after an independence vote in October, which the Spanish government deemed illegal.

The FA then spoke to the City boss about the situation in December and had previously issued two formal warnings.

Action was taken after he wore it at pitchside — he was free to wear it elsewhere — during City’s FA Cup fifth-round loss to League One side Wigan on 19 February.

Guardiola did not wear the ribbon during City’s Premier League match against Chelsea on Sunday, instead doing so during the news conference afterwards.

He also donned it during City’s most recent Champions League game against Basel as UEFA, European football’s governing body, has different rules on political symbols.

Mesut Ozil: it was “easy to say yes” to Arsenal contract extension

Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil claims that it was “easy to say yes” to an contract extension with the club as the German international sets his sights on “some titles with the team”.

There had been intense speculation regarding his future at the Emirates throughout the first half of the 2017-18 campaign, with an expiring deal offering cause for concern.

However, the World Cup winner ended the speculation by committing his future to the Gunners in February with a new long-term contract.

The 29-year old also insisted he never considered heading elsewhere as he believes he still have unfinished business at Emirates Stadium following three FA Cup triumphs to date.

“It feels really good (to sign the contract extension,” Ozil said. “I’m really happy to sign here for such a big club like Arsenal. I’ve always said to the club that i’m happy here and now I’ve signed, I’m really happy.”

“My teammates and family have always supported me. I have a lot of goals here with the team, I want to reach those and I’m really happy. I love the city.”

“Before I signed the contract, I spoke with my family about what the best decision was for me. At the end of the day, it was really easy for me to say ‘yes’ to the club. I’m here for more years and I hope we will win some titles with the team. I believe in that.”

Ozil joined Arsenal from Real Madrid for a then club-record fee of £42.5 million in the summer of 2013, before going on to make 189 appearances for the club, netting 37 goals as well as providing a steady supply of assists.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will naturally be hoping for another key contribution from his star playmaker on Thursday when the Gunners take on AC Milan in north London for the second leg of a Europa League last-16, a tie which Arsenal currently lead 2-0.