Napoli aiming for quick bounce back in title march

 

Napoli during the Serie A match between Ssc Napoli and Ss Lazio on March 3, 2023 stadium ''Armando Maradona'' in Napoli, Italy.

After their march to glory was stalled last weekend Napoli can get their Serie A title bid back on track in Saturday when they host Champions League-chasing Atalanta.

Defeat to Lazio meant Napoli’s massive league lead over Inter Milan was cut to 15 points with 13 matches remaining.

Inter will have the chance to put a little more pressure on Napoli as they open the weekend’s fixtures at relegation-threatened Spezia on Friday night.

There is little chance of Napoli not winning their first Scudetto since 1990 as even if Inter were to win all of their fixtures another 25 points would secure triumph for southern Italy’s biggest club.

But another wobble against one of Italy’s better teams could cause worry among Napoli supporters who last season saw first hand a Spring collapse which has been a feature of coach Luciano Spalletti’s career.

Spalletti described the Lazio defeat as “an off day”, apparently unconcerned with how little joy even his star attackers Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia had in creating chances.

The dynamic duo have lit up Serie A this season and will start again on Saturday despite the visit of Eintracht Frankfurt on Wednesday.

A two-goal cushion and a government ban on away fans from Frankfurt make the Champions League quarter-finals a likely destination and ease Spalletti’s team decisions for the weekend.

Atalanta have in the past been a tricky side for Napoli to deal with but come into Saturday’s clash having won once in five games and five points off the top four.

Their chances of closing that gap this weekend are slim as Roma host Sassuolo and AC Milan take on struggling Salernitana at the San Siro on a high from reaching the Champions League last eight.

Reigning champions Milan are level on 47 points with fourth-placed Roma, last week’s win over Juventus pushing Jose Mourinho’s outfit into the elite European spots at Milan’s expense.

Mourinho will find out on Friday if he will be able to take his place in the dugout, a hearing set to decide whether his two-match ban for being sent off at Cremonese should be applied.

Lazio are a point ahead of that pair in third and are at Bologna on Saturday night, their fans once again being investigated for racist chanting a week away from the Rome derby.

The capital club had the Curva Nord section of the Stadio Olimpico closed for a match in January following racist chanting at Lecce which left France defender Samuel Umtiti in tears.

Player to watch: Rafael Leao

Leao was back to his best on Wednesday, full of drive and causing the Spurs defence huge problems on the rare occasions that Milan pushed forward.

The Portugal winger was suspended for last weekend’s defeat at Fiorentina and will be key to Milan’s bid to stay in the Champions League for next season.

Key stats

15 – Napoli’s lead over Inter Milan which makes the league title an almost certainty.

3 – The number of points which separate Inter in second and Milan in fifth.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Friday

Spezia v Inter Milan (1945)

Saturday

Empoli v Udinese (1400), Napoli v Atalanta (1700), Bologna v Lazio (1945)

Sunday

Lecce v Torino (1130), Cremonese v Fiorentina, Verona v Monza (1400), Roma v Sassuolo (1700), Juventus v Sampdoria (1945)

Monday

AC Milan v Salernitana (1945)


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