Inter Milan defends its slender lead at the top of Serie A on Sunday when it travels to reigning champion Napoli with Juventus breathing down its neck.
Simone Inzaghi’s side maintained its two-point advantage over Juve with last weekend’s scrappy draw in Turin but has another tough test in Naples to complete what has been a tricky week.
Inter travels south on Sunday after Wednesday’s 3-3 Champions League draw at Benfica as it ploughs through a punishing schedule aiming to be the top gun, both at home and abroad.
Its second string coming back from three goals down at the Estadio da Luz gave it a good chance of finishing top of Group F, and the heavy squad rotation Inzaghi decided to implement for the draw in Portugal means his top performers should be fresh for domestic action at the weekend.
Also helping Inter is Napoli’s atrocious record at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, which was largely why Rudi Garcia was sacked and replaced by Walter Mazzarri.
Seven points is a measly tally from six league matches at home, and a strong performance against Inter will be the best way to forget an eventful 4-2 defeat at Real Madrid, in which Napoli showed signs of life after an awful start to the season.
Sunday’s clash is Mazzarri’s first at home since returning to the helm at fourth-placed Napoli earlier this month, and he is trying to cut the eight-point gap separating his team from Inter.
Inter could already find itself behind Juve before it takes to the field in Naples as its closest rival is at Monza on Friday night in the opening match of the weekend.
Monza has shown no signs of second-season syndrome in Italy’s top flight and is nestled in ninth place.
Raffaele Palladino’s side is tough to beat and can count on one of the revelations of the campaign in Andrea Colpani, the 24-year-old attacking midfielder, having scored six times and set up one more this season.
Juve, meanwhile, is finally coming to the end of an injury crisis and should have Manuel Locatelli back in midfield, while Federico Chiesa and Dusan Vlahovic looked to be back on form before last week’s draw with Inter descended into a glorified street fight.
Six points back in third is AC Milan, which is in full-blown crisis mode after being all but eliminated from the Champions League following Tuesday’s limp home defeat by Borussia Dortmund, which brought yet another injury.
Germany centre-back Malick Thiaw succumbed to a serious hamstring tear, meaning Milan have 10 players out, including star winger Rafael Leao, for Saturday’s visit of Frosinone, which is 10th and having a great time back in Serie A.
Milan, which has won just two of its last eight matches in all competitions, is for now backing under-fire coach Stefano Pioli, but another bad result will pile further pressure on both him and the club.
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