Inter plays catch-up on Napoli, Juventus

Inter plays catch-up on Napoli, Juventus

MILAN – Agence France-Presse
Inter plays catch-up on Napoli, Juventus

Inter Milan travels to Fiorentina on Jan. 5 looking to close the gap on leader Napoli and Juventus to rekindle its Serie A campaign before the winter break.

Inter Milan and Roma lost ground on the leading duo last weekend after both were held and need three points to ensure the leading duo are within sight before a two-week break in the championship.

Napoli lead the way with 48 points from 19 games, one point ahead of six-time champion Juventus, with Inter now seven points adrift of top spot in third. Roma -- a further two points behind in fourth -- hosts mid-table Atalanta on Jan. 6.

Luciano Spalletti’s side faces a tricky task at Fiorentina, seventh after being held 1-1 by AC Milan last weekend.

Spalletti, who arrived from Roma last season, wants more despite just two losses in the campaign.

“I am not happy with my work,” said Spalletti.

“I think we’ve done quite well, but are capable of something more. We’ve got to get a move-on in the second half of the season.”

Spalletti is counting on leading Serie A scorer Mauro Icardi to lift his side, which suffered back-to-back league defeats followed by an Italian Cup exit to AC Milan.

“We have Mauro Icardi, the goal psychologist. He will speak to the team before [Thursday’s] training session and he will help find the solution to more team goals,” added Spalletti.

Napoli turns its focus back to its Serie A campaign against second-from-bottom Verona days after a shock 2-1 Italian Cup exit to Atalanta.

Maurizio Sarri was at a loss to explain his side’s flagging performance in the 2-1 home defeat by the side from Bergamo.

“I don’t understand why we can’t perform at the same level as in the league,” said Sarri whose side have lost just once this season to Juventus.

“I guess it’s subconscious or perhaps we see some games as less important than others. Either way, it’s a mistake on our part.

“If we play the same way we did in the second half when we go to Bergamo, we’ll struggle again.

“We’ll need to be fierce and aggressive.”

Juventus hosts lowly Cagliari boosted by an Italian Cup derby win over Torino.

“I said we expected key matches before the break, now we do not throw anything on Saturday,” said coach Massimiliano Allegri.

Torino -- whose coach Sinisa Mihajlovic has been sacked after the club’s Italian Cup defeat -- hosts European rival Bologna.

AC Milan begins its first match of 2018 against Crotone, occupant of the first relegation spot, looking to climb back into the top of the table and its push for European football next season.

Sampdoria, in sixth and also targeting the European berths, travels to tail-ender Benevento, which is looking to build on its first win of the season last weekend.