Napoli tar­get Inter win and Serie A lead

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

MILAN: Napoli wel­come lead­ers Inter Milan look­ing to re­gain top spot as Roma, fresh from an­other Cham­pi­ons League hu­mil­i­a­tion, and Fiorentina seek to keep pace with Serie A’s cur­rent ti­tle fa­vorites. Sit­ting just two points off the pace along­side third-placed Fiorentina, Napoli’s ti­tle be­lief has been strength­ened by a string of im­pres­sive per­for­mances at home and in Europe. The Az­zurri are un­beaten since los­ing their league opener away to Sas­suolo and, with striker Gon­zalo Higuain lead­ing the league on 10 goals, Mau­r­izio Sarri’s men have stormed into the Europa League last 32.

It is all a far cry from last Septem­ber, when a sin­gle vic­tory in their open­ing five league games left Napoli icon Diego Maradona, the ar­chi­tect of their pre­vi­ous two ti­tles, in 1987 and 1990, pub­licly lam­bast­ing Sarri. Track­suit-wear­ing Sarri, a life­long Napoli fan, took the blow on the chin and since then Napoli have dropped only two points as they forge a path to­wards a pos­si­ble third ti­tle. “Right now, Napoli are fright­en­ing,” for­mer Inter and Italy de­fender Marco Mat­er­azzi told Gazzetta dello Sport re­cently. “They’re well or­ga­nized, they’re go­ing really well and they’ve got Higuain, who is among the top five strik­ers in the world.”

Be­tween them, Higuain and Lorenzo In­signe have scored 17 of Napoli’s 24 goals but, with only eight con­ceded, Inter have the mean­est de­fense in Serie A. While an Inter win would open up a five-point gap on Napoli, Fiorentina and Roma are ex­pected to re­main in hot pur­suit, while Ju­ven­tus, nine points off the pace, travel to Palermo in the hunt for a fourth con­sec­u­tive win days af­ter beat­ing Manch­ester City 1-0 to se­cure their Cham­pi­ons League last 16 ticket. Ata­lanta have only once away from home this sea­son but must fancy a tilt amid the cri­sis that has en­gulfed Roma fol­low­ing their 6-1 hu­mil­i­a­tion at the hands of Barcelona on Tues­day.

Roma’s Camp Nou calamity means they must beat BATE Borisov in their fi­nal Group E game to have any chance of qual­i­fy­ing for the last 16. Coach Rudi Gar­cia, who is still with­out for­wards Gerv­inho and Mo­hamed Salah, even took flak from his own play­ers, in­clud­ing Alessan­dro Florenzi and Maicon-who both played when Roma were hu­mil­i­ated 7-1 at home by Bay­ern Mu­nich last year. “We did noth­ing but de­fend for 90 min­utes against a side that had the com­plete run of the game,” said Maicon.”We have an­other im­por­tant game on Sun­day, let’s try and forget ev­ery­thing that hap­pened against Barcelona and fo­cus on the league.” — AFP

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