Napoli skipper Marek Hamsik insists his side are still in the Serie A title race as they battle to avoid falling seven points behind Juventus before the international break. “Napoli aren’t giving up anything,” said Hamsik, after six-time defending champions Juventus pulled four points clear in midweek. “Anything can definitely happen.
The league still gives us opportunities, there are so many points and so many games.” Massimiliano Allegri’s Old Lady can extend that advantage on Saturday when they visit struggling SPAL. With 10 games to play this season, Napoli desperately need to return to winning ways at home against Genoa on Sunday.
Juventus’ victory against Atalanta was their 12th consecutive league win, and they have become accustomed to turning the championship into a one-horse race with the arrival of spring.
“I see a team that is growing,” said coach Allegri whose side are targeting a historic treble of Serie A, Italian Cup and Champions League titles. The first big move has been made and Juve have not conceded a goal in the league since December 30 against Verona.
“The victory against Atalanta was very important to give a good blow to the championship, even if there are still many games left,” said defender Mattia De Sciglio, adding that Paulo Dybala’s last-gasp winner against Lazio in the Stadio Olimpico earlier this month had proved a turning point.
“From a psychological point of view it gave us an extra push to believe even more in this Scudetto.” Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli are in a mini-crisis having fallen to a 4-2 home defeat by Roma, followed by a goalless draw against Inter Milan at the San Siro last weekend. “We have to believe to the end, there’s still the head-to-head game (against Juventus on April 22) and Juventus have two tough away games in the run-in,” said Hamsik.
Roma will be looking to consolidate third position as they travel to Crotone after booking their ticket to the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in a decade. But sporting director Monchi warned his side from getting carried away.
“We must find the right balance,” said the Spaniard. “We cannot stop at the beautiful and important victory over Shakhtar. Every time we start to win then the first defeat becomes a disaster.”
Also riding high in Europe, fourth-placed Lazio host midtable Bologna, trying to hold off Inter Milan, just a point behind in fifth. Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio reached the Europa League quarter-finals thanks to a 2-0 second-leg win at Dynamo Kiev.
But AC Milan six points off the Champions League places in sixth are licking their wounds after being dumped out by Arsenal. Next up for Gennaro Gattuso’s side, who are unbeaten in their last nine Serie A games, are lowly Chievo
. “This is a young side. These two games against a very strong Arsenal side showed we could cause them problems,” said Gattuso. Fiorentina rebuilding after the sudden death of captain Davide Astori travel north to Torino. -AFP