Juventus manager Maurizio Sarri returns to Napoli for the first time since they sacked him in 2018 and he’ll find the club, who he admitted ‘broke his heart’, in a sad state.
It has been yet another week of controversy in Italy‘s top flight and as ever it is Napoli who have dominated the headlines. It doesn’t seem that long ago since club president Aurelio De Laurentiis went into meltdown after Carlo Ancelotti, who replaced Sarri, didn’t follow his instructions.
Ancelotti was sacked in December and that was meant to signify a new, happier beginning.
Gennaro Gattuso has struggled since coming in as Napoli manager mid-season
Form has turned sour in Naples as Lorenzo Insigne shows his frustration in front of Gattuso
Alas, that hasn’t happened. The appointment of Gennaro Gattuso always had the possibility of going wrong but nobody thought it would all happen so soon.
Reports in Italy suggest De Laurentiis has been left upset and angry at Napoli’s recent run of form under Gattuso.
Napoli have lost four of their five league games since Gattuso’s appointment with three of those coming in their last three outings.
There have also been claims of bust-ups in the dressing room. Last weekend, after the 2-0 defeat by Fiorentina at Stadio San Paolo, Dries Mertens and Allan were involved in a heated argument.
Gattuso also doesn’t appear to have control over his squad, who opted to go to a training retreat following the defeat which was something the manager had no say in.
Napoli’s poor Serie A form has seen them slump down the table in recent weeks
Owner Aurelio De Laurentiis has shown regret in sacking former boss Carlo Ancelotti
De Laurentiis has though come out in support for Gattuso as he hopes to control his players
SERIE A FIXTURES
Brescia vs AC Milan (7.45pm)
SPAL vs Bologna (2pm)
Fiorentina vs Genoa (5pm)
Torino vs Atalanta (7.45pm)
Inter Milan vs Cagliari (11.30pm)
Parma vs Udinese (2pm)
Sampdoria vs Sassuolo (2pm)
Verona vs Lecce (2pm)
Roma vs Lazio (5pm)
Napoli vs Juventus (7.45pm)
De Laurentiis does now seem to have come down in support of Gattuso over the issues with the players.
The talk is that De Laurentiis would happily lock the players away so that they could focus fully ahead of the Sunday night game against Juventus in Naples.
Of course, with all of the negativity surrounding the club, Sunday’s fixture is one Juventus will be relishing as Sarri takes his league leaders down south.
The former Chelsea boss said he developed an ’emotional bond’ with the Naples outfit during his three years at the club.
‘That was not a normal experience,’ he said after Juve’s cup win over Roma in midweek.
‘It was something that really touched me deep down. It was, on a human level, an extraordinary bond.’
Juve have won their eight of their last nine in all competitions and Cristiano Ronaldo added one against Roma to his double against Parma last weekend. No doubt he will aim to add to his tally of 30 goals for club and country this season.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored both of Juventus’s goals in their win over Parma last weekend
Ronaldo will be hoping to keep up his form when Juve take on Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo
Inter need points against Cagliari to make up ground on Juventus
The way Juventus have dominated Serie A in recent years is enough for any of their opponents to realise just how little a chance they have once they start to fall behind.
Mistakes simply can’t happen because the more they do then the more chance Juventus have of going further into the distance.
Inter Milan had been doing well to keep up with Juventus but that all changed last weekend.
Juventus made reasonably comfortable work of Parma but Inter drew 1-1 away at struggling Lecce.
It is the type of result Inter can’t afford if they are to stop Juventus winning a ninth Scudetto in a row.
Indeed, to help with this weekend’s task, Inter have been doing all they can to bring in Christian Eriksen from Tottenham.
Tottenham want £15million for the playmaker who is out of contract at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium at the end of the season.
Eriksen would certainly help Inter pick the lock more often when going forward and he could perhaps be the final piece they need to push Juventus hard until the end of the season.
Inter Milan’s title push took a severe dent after they were held 1-1 at Lecce last time out
Lazio seek 12th straight league win to close gap on leaders
Lazio’s epic run to the top end of Serie A has been nothing short of incredible.
Six points are now all that separate them and Juventus in first place. Indeed, they are only two points behind Napoli who they could overtake should they beat fierce local rivals Roma in the derby on Sunday evening.
They go into the game razor sharp after thrashing Sampdoria 5-1 last weekend. Ciro Immobile extended his lead at the top of the scoring charts in Serie A to 23 goals by scoring a fine hat-trick.
Lazio are routinely outplaying their opponents as last weekend proved with Simone Inzaghi’s side dominating possession while averaging around 10 shots on target a match.
Roma won’t care too much about Lazio’s fantastic form. They themselves are coming into the fixture on the back of two league wins and sit seven points behind their rivals in fourth place.
Both sides head into the game following Coppa Italia elimination in the quarter-finals midweek but that will have no bearing on form heading into the Stadio Olimpico clash.
Luis Alberto rescued a point for Lazio against Roma in the Rome derby back in September
Elsewhere in Serie A…
Looking to pick up the pieces from the fallout of the Rome derby are Atalanta who in pursuit of a second straight season of Champions League football travel to Torino just three points behind Roma.
Parma also have European football as a target and would move into the top six if they see off Udinese at home and Cagliari fall to a fifth defeat in six at Inter.
AC Milan are also in the hunt for Europe as they visit Brescia who enter the weekend second from bottom.
They are just a point in front of Genoa who can climb out of the bottom three if they win at the recently revived Fiorentina.
Meanwhile SPAL‘s surprise win at Atalanta last time out took them off the foot of the table and they now seek to haul themselves out of the relegation zone when they entertain Bologna.
Sampdoria host Sassuolo and Lecce go to Verona.
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