Napoli aim for Christmas in the lead as bumper weekend delivers derby delights

Napoli have the chance to further extend their lead at the top of Serie A on Saturday when they travel to Bergamo for a top-flight clash with Atalanta on a standout weekend in Italy’s top flight.

An all-competition winning streak for Luciano Spalletti’s side ended in 13 matches with Tuesday’s loss to Liverpool which did not change their position as Champions League Group A winners.

But Napoli remain unbeaten after 12 games in Italy and have a five-point lead over Atalanta as Serie A enter their final run before the World Cup, with a weekend packed with top-flight fixtures including the derby from Rome and Juventus hosting rivals Inter Milan.

Chasing a first league title since the days of Diego Maradona, a win at the Gewiss Stadium would put Napoli on course to ensure they remain top after the final matches of 2022 the following weekend .

Napoli also have home games with Empoli and Udinese ahead of the Qatar World Cup, and a ninth league win on the rebound on Saturday would secure at least a six-point lead over Milan, who would overtake second-placed Atalanta with a win. on struggling Spezia. .

Napoli would then have to lose their next two games at the Stadio Maradona with a nine-goal swing in favor of Milan to concede top spot.

Atalanta have been Italy’s entertainer for the past few seasons but have turned into a badass, while Napoli have wowed Europe with an exciting brand of football.

Napoli also have Victor Osimhen in fine form, with six goals in his first five matches in Serie A and Europe since returning from a thigh injury.

Osimhen jointly leads the Serie A goalscoring charts with seven goals and will face fellow Nigerian Ademola Lookman who has scored four goals in his last five.

Roma, who are seven points behind Napoli and used Lazio’s loss to Salernitana last weekend to lift their local rivals into the top four ahead of the Rome derby on Sunday, are also ready to pounce on any error.

Jose Mourinho’s side host the first capital derby of the season, with Lazio likely missing both suspended star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Italian striker Ciro Immobile, who will hope to be on the bench at the Stadio Olimpico as recovering from a thigh injury.

Player to watch: Federico Chiesa

It’s not often that the ‘Italy Derby’ clash between Juventus and Inter isn’t the showpiece game in Italy, but the fate of Massimiliano Allegri’s injury-ravaged side has made of Sunday’s late game more a matter of pride than important for the title race.

The only good news for Allegri is Chiesa’s return to action after 10 months out with a knee injury, with the Italian striker looking in promising condition in the 16 minutes given to him in the narrow defeat Wednesday against Paris Saint-Germain.

A second-string Juve side played creditably against PSG despite losing 2-1 and Juve will be hoping to move past sixth-placed Inter, who are two points clear of their rivals and sweating to provided the summer star signs Romelu Lukaku after another hamstring. wound.

Allegri is also hopeful that Dusan Vlahovic and Angel Di Maria will be available again for what is traditionally the most important fixture on the Serie A schedule.

Key statistics

9 – Napoli’s league winning streak will extend to nine matches if they take the points from Atalanta.

32 – The number of years Napoli fans have been waiting for a league title.

1 – Juventus are the only Serie A side in the Champions League that have not reached the round of 16.

Calendar (GMT times)

Friday

Udinese v Lecce (2000)

Saturday

Empoli against Sassuolo, Salernitana against Cremonese (1400), Atalanta against Napoli (1700), AC Milan against Spezia (1945)

Sunday

Bologna v Turin (1130), Sampdoria v Fiorentina, Monza v Verona (1400), Roma v Lazio (1700), Juventus v Inter Milan (1945)

td/jc

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