Football Soccer Juventus clash may have come at the right time
Football Soccer Juventus clash may have come at the right time

Football: Soccer-Juventus clash may have come at the right time for upbeat Napoli

(Reuters) – Napoli’s record against the traditional powerhouses of Italian football has been woeful this season but their home Serie A clash against struggling Juventus could be coming at just the right time for the champions.

Napoli’s shambolic title defence has seen them fail to win any of their four league matches against Juve, Inter Milan or AC Milan this season and they have dropped to ninth in the league standings, 29 points behind leaders Inter.

For much of this campaign few would have fancied Napoli’s chances against Juventus, but the stars have aligned to give the champions an excellent chance to finally kick-start their season.

Napoli earned their first win under newly-appointed coach Francesco Calzona on Wednesday, looking back to their best as they thrashed 18th-placed Sassuolo 6-1 away.

Striker Victor Osimhen also appears to have rediscovered his scoring touch, netting four goals in his last two games.

“We needed a performance like that also on a mental level,” forward Matteo Politano said after the Sassuolo win.

“When you have difficulties during the season you subconsciously lose some confidence in yourself, but we know very well what the value of our group is…

“Calzona is giving us a lot of drive and serenity. Some of us have known him for years, we know the way he works and we are totally willing to follow his ideas.”

DOWNWARD SPIRAL

Napoli’s opponents Juventus have been on a downward spiral since last month, with one win in their last five league games.

At the end of January, Juve were a point ahead of Inter but their dismal run has left them 12 points behind Simone Inzaghi’s side.

The gap already seems insurmountable and Inter, who have won their last eight league games, look certain to continue their romp towards a 20th league title when they host mid-table Genoa on Monday.

However, manager Simone Inzaghi has urged caution, pointing to the speed at which Juve’s title challenge fell apart.

“We know that we’ve managed to create this gap in a month but there are still many games to go and we need to stay focused because everything can change quickly in football,” he said after Inter’s 4-0 home win over Atalanta on Wednesday.

The weekend action will begin with third-placed AC Milan looking to snap a run of three games without a win in all competitions when they travel to Lazio on Friday.

Monza and AS Roma will be targeting their third consecutive league win when they meet at the Brianteo Stadium.

At the bottom, 17th-placed Verona host Sassuolo in a clash that could have major implications in the relegation battle.

(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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