Leaders Napoli turn their focus back to Serie A after a bruising Champions League defeat to Manchester City midweek in which defender Faouzi Ghoulam picked up a serious knee injury.
Algerian international Ghoulam could be out for months after tearing a cruciate ligament in his right knee during the 4-2 defeat which effectively ends Napoli’s elite European challenge.
Maurizio Sarri’s side with 31 points after 11 games travel to midtable Chievo on Sunday looking to pull further ahead of rivals Inter Milan, who are just two points adrift and fresh after their absence from European football when they host northern Italian outfit Torino, who are in ninth.
But Ghoulam’s absence should cause headaches for Sarri who will be forced to shuffle around Elseid Hysaj and Christian Maggio, or bring in Portuguese Mario Rui, who has played little in the past year. “Right now (Ghoulam) he’s one of the best full-backs in Europe,” said Sarri.
“He’s an important player for us and it’ll be difficult for us to replace him.” Champions Juventus, three points behind Napoli, can make up ground as they host tailenders Benevento, who have lost all their 11 games.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side were held 1-1 in Champions League by Sporting Lisbon, but are still in the running for the last-16. Despite their predicament Benevento forward Pietro Lemmello remains optimistic of staying in the top flight.
“It’s a tough moment for everyone, the only way to react is to work and never give up,” said Lemmello. “Last year’s championship taught us that Crotone made a final sprint and saved more than 30 points. This year maybe we can do the same.”
Lazio, joint third with Juventus, host Udinese after maintaining their 100 percent Europa League record with a 1-0 win over Nice to move into the last 32. “We are the only team in Europe to have won four out of four matches,” said coach Simone Inzaghi with pride as his side target a third Serie A title and first since 2000. “The hardest is yet to come. We have to recover and regain energy for Udinese on Sunday. -AFP