Europa League: Napoli return to domestic action looking for a lift after their European setback with a fascinating top of the table clash at home against Inter Milan in Serie A on Saturday.
Maurizio Sarri’s side have little time to dwell on Tuesday’s 2-1 loss at Manchester City as they focus on a clash that could prove crucial in the Serie A title race.
Napoli are flying high with a perfect 24 points from eight games — two ahead of second-placed Inter — and a win would give the southerners a five-point cushion on their pursuers.
The clash is between the only two unbeaten sides in Serie A.
“We were defeated on the pitch but not in spirit,” warned Amadou Diawara, who scored his maiden goal for Napoli in Manchester.
“I’m happy with the goal in Manchester. It was pity about the result, but the head is only for Inter now,” the Guinean midfielder continued.
“The team showed strength and character. We know it’s difficult but it’s going to be a fascinating title race.
“We will play in San Paulo, in front of our people and the fans will give us a great boost. But we also know that we’re meeting a team in great shape.”
Inter, chasing a first win at the San Paolo stadium in two decades, have fresher legs with no European action midweek and boosted after a Mauro Icardi hat-trick lifted them past city rivals AC Milan in the prestigious Derby della Madonnina.
Inter’s former Newcastle defender Davide Santon warned that last Sunday’s derby excitement was already far behind the team and urged “the right ruthlessness.”
– ‘Sparkle’ –
Champions Juventus have regained some of their sparkle after recent setbacks with a 2-1 Champions League win against Sporting Lisbon.
The reigning six-time Serie A winners had picked up just one point from their last two games to drop five points off top spot after last weekend’s defeat to Lazio in Turin.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side ease back into domestic duty with a trip to Udinese, just one point above the drop zone.
Although Allegri admitted his team had lost some of their brilliance he urged them “to resume the championship race in Udine”.
AS Roma are also gaining momentum after last weekend’s home defeat against Napoli demonstrating their European credentials with a 3-3 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
The fifth-placed Romans travel north to Torino on Sunday.
Lazio followed on from last weekend’s exploits in Turin where they ended Juventus’s two year unbeaten run at home with a 3-1 Europa League success over Nice.
The Roman side host Cagliari who are playing under new coach Diego Lopez.
“We must be ready for anything, as everyone is waiting for Lazio now,” said coach Simone Inzaghi.
“After the win at Juventus, we needed that psychological step up to maintain focus. We are happy to have shown that consistency,” added forward Ciro Immobile.
Chinese-owned AC Milan host Genoa on Sunday with coach Vincenzo Montella under increasing pressure after three straight league losses was followed by a goalless draw at home to AEK Athens in Europa League action.
Fixtures (all time 1300GMT unless stated)
Sampdoria v Crotone (1600), Napoli v Inter Milan (1845)
Chievo v Verona (1030), SPAL v Sassuolo, Benevento v Fiorentina, Torino v Roma, Atalanta v Bologna, AC Milan v Genoa, Udinese v Juventus (1600), Lazio v Cagliari (1845)