ROME (AP) — After a quarter century, Napoli is back on top of Serie A.
For a club that is perhaps more identified with its city than any other in Italy, the difficult part now is staying there.
“We’ve done an excellent job up to this point and now we need to do just as good a job of keeping our feet on the ground,” Napoli’s first-year coach Maurizio Sarri said following Monday’s 2-1 win over 10-man Inter Milan, the previous leader.
While Milan, Turin, Rome and even Genoa and Verona each have two Serie A clubs, Naples has just Napoli. And ever since Diego Maradona led the southern club to Italian titles in 1987 and 1990, there has been a yearning for more.
Napoli hadn’t had sole possession of the lead since the 1990 title.
Sarri’s club is one point ahead of Inter entering Sunday’s match at relegation-threatened Bologna. Inter hosts Genoa on Saturday while Fiorentina, which is two points behind Napoli in third, faces Udinese on Sunday.
Fourth-place Roma, in crisis after a run of poor results, visits Torino.
Four-time defending champion Juventus, which is fifth, aims for its fifth consecutive win at Lazio on Friday.
Also this weekend, it’s: Atalanta vs. Palermo; Frosinone vs. Chievo Verona; Hellas Verona vs. Empoli; Sampdoria vs. Sassuolo; and Carpi vs. AC Milan.
RABBITS AND CARROTS
Seven crates of carrots were lined up on the ground at the exit from Roma’s training ground this week.
An accompanying banner set up by disgruntled fans read, “Buon appetito rabbits!”
That was the response from Roma supporters following three miserable results — a 2-2 draw at Bologna, an embarrassing 6-1 rout by Barcelona in the Champions League, and an alarming 2-0 defeat at home to Atalanta.
Struggling due to defensive lapses, Roma coach Rudi Garcia has been widely criticized but Roma’s American owners have expressed no interest in making a managerial change, especially since Garcia still has 2 1/2 years remaining on his contract at 2.5 million euros ($2.7 million) per season.
One possible successor could be former Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, who is currently out of a job.
Key winger Gervinho is expected back from injury against Torino, with Mohamed Salah possibly due back in the Champions League against BATE Borisov next week.
AC Milan’s 20-year-old forward M’Baye Niang is finally starting to live up to his potential.
After going scoreless in his first 35 appearances for Milan, Niang scored two goals and set up another in a convincing 4-1 win over Sampdoria last weekend. He then scored the last goal in an extra-time 3-1 win over Crotone in the Italian Cup.
Niang’s emergence comes with Mario Balotelli having returned to training this week following pelvis surgery. He’s been out since September.
Also, it seems Kevin-Prince Boateng will be promoted from the training squad to the first team in January.
Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf
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