Goal-shy Napoli desperate for Milik return to Serie A action
Maurizio Sarri hopes his rejection of proven goalscorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang does not return to haunt him when goal-shy Napoli host Lazio tomorrow looking to save their wilting Serie A campaign.
With goals steadily drying up amid the injury-enforced absence of Polish striker Arkaduisz Milik, Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis offered earlier this week to table a bid for Borussia Dortmund marksman Aubameyang.
Sarri, however, rejected the proposal claiming Milik would "return by mid-January" from a cruciate knee ligament injury he suffered last month.
“I asked Sarri if he wanted (Aubameyang) and he told me he wouldn't be suited to our style of game,” De Laurentiis told the club's radio station Kiss Kiss.
“I hope Arkaduisz returns in January because in Sarri's set-up he needs a striker with specific characteristics.”
Fans also hope that tracksuitwearing tactician Sarri, who steered Napoli to the runners-up spot last season only to see De Laurentiis sell star striker Gonzalo Higuain to Juventus for €90 million (RM419 million), is right.
Napoli are already seven points adrift of Juventus, who hold a four-point lead on Roma, with AC Milan and Lazio among the few teams also showing consistent early-season promise.
Former Roma striker Vincenzo Montella's magic at the Milan helm has seen the revived Rossoneri up to third at only five points off the pace ahead of Sunday's visit to Palermo.
Lazio are just one point behind in fourth while Napoli, after their 2-1 defeat to Juve last weekend, have dropped to fifth.
Coached by Simeone Inzaghi, Lazio are powering along thanks to the silky creative skills of Brazilian Felipe Anderson and the nine league goals of Italy forward Ciro Immobile.
Although they have only one win from their last five outings against Napoli — a shock 4-2 win at the San Paolo in May 2015 — Serbian midfielder Sergej Milinkovic said the sky's the limit.
“Napoli will be a difficult test for us but we'll be going there with no pressure. We're a strong squad, Inzaghi is doing a great job and there's a great feeling in the dressing room,” Milinkovic said in Gazzetta dello Sport.
“We're fourth, and we want to keep on winning games. We have to see how far we can go, but this season we should be targeting the Champions League.”
After Napoli's defeat in Turin, where the aerial threat of Milik was sorely missed, they can ill afford to drop points, especially with injury-depleted Juventus expected to take all three points at Chievo.
Massimiliano Allegri's men travel to Verona still smarting from a midweek 1-1 draw with Lyon in the Champions League which put their last 16 qualification on hold.
A rash of injuries is set to force Allegri into some reshuffling that could see Dani Alves or Patrice Evra back on defensive duties.
Already without strikers Paulo Dybala and Marko Pjaca and midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah, Leonardo Bonucci (thigh) is expected to join fellow defender Giorgio Chiellini on the casualty list.
Having beaten Inter Milan 2-0 in their season opener, Chievo would be forgiven for harbouring lofty ambitions. Yet they host Juventus amid a four-game winless run.
“We really want to get back into our stride after our recent lean patch,” midfielder Massimo Gobbi told the Chievo website.
“We've buried ourselves in training this week trying to prepare for this game against the strongest side in the league, so we owe the fans a decent display.”
Meanwhile, Torino and Cagliari have dazzled fans with plenty of goals at both ends, so this ought to be a thriller.
Toro are coming off a disappointing 2-2 tie against Udinese. Sinisa Mihajlovic called the tie a deserved result, but insisted they must find the right mentality. The resurgent Adem Ljajic continues to create, score and has become the decisive player that Torino needed.
Andrea Belotti, Marco Benassi and Daniele Baselli have all been key figures, so are expected to be in the Italy squad next week. While midfielders Benassi and Baselli have great creativity and imagination, their goal scoring has been a pleasant surprise, netting three each this term.
The Granata certainly don’t lack attacking flair, but they are leaking goals at the back, especially since Leandro Castan’s injury.
As for Cagliari, they had an emotional win last time out against a tricky Palermo side. A rare brace for Daniele Dessena made it an unforgettable night for the Cagliari captain. Missing practically all of last season with a serious injury, he was visibly emotional and crying after each goal.
Pioli in pole for Inter job
Stefano Pioli is reportedly in pole position for the Inter job, ahead of former Villarreal Coach Marcelino.
The pair are both believed to be in Milan for an interview tomorrow, as they hope to be appointed as Frank de Boer’s successor.
A meeting is taking place tonight between the Suning Group, who own the club, and those who run the Nerazzurri on a day-to-day basis.According to Premium Sport, sources close to Pioli are optimistic that he is in pole position to be the next Inter Coach.
Super-agent Kia Joorabchian is pushing for Marcelino, but sporting director Piero Ausilio and vicePresident Javier Zanetti favour Pioli.
It appears that Zanetti and Ausilio have made a stronger case to Suning, but both men will still be interviewed.
Napoli’s Arkaduisz Milik