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Napoli resume title charge at Salernitana where sacked Nicola gets second chance

January 19, 2023 (AFP)

Napoli will be hoping to bounce back from an unlikely midweek Italian Cup exit when they make a short trip on Saturday to Salernitana, who sacked and then brought back their manager within the space of two days.

Runaway league leaders thanks to their whirlwind, five-goal destruction of Juventus on Friday, Napoli were then dumped straight back down to earth by Serie A's winless bottom team Cremonese on Tuesday.

Their penalty shootout exit under a biblical downpour in Naples looked to be the biggest shock this week would have to offer but Salernitana gazumped their local rivals the very next morning.

Salernitana were searching for a coach after sacking Davide Nicola, the architect of last season's great escape from relegation, on Monday following their 8-2 drubbing at the hands of Atalanta.

No wins in six, a run which includes four defeats, left the southern Italian outfit in 16th place, albeit nine points from the drop zone thanks to the dismal form of the bottom three.

However in a Facebook post published on Wednesday Nicola said he pleaded with owner Danilo Iervolino to be kept on, the club then confirming to AFP that he had reclaimed his post less than 48 hours after being dismissed.

It remains to be seen if a Nicola's rapid return will bring a new manager bounce that will threaten Napoli, whose fans won't be in the away end for a fiery regional derby after being banned from travelling until mid-March as punishment for a mass brawl with Roma fans at a motorway service station a fortnight ago.

Napoli have a nine-point lead over AC Milan that could be extended as the wobbling champions -- thumped by Inter Milan in Wednesday's Italian Super Cup in Saudi Arabia -- take on Lazio in Rome on Tuesday while third-place Juventus host Atalanta on Sunday.

Lazio, who will be missing injured star striker Ciro Immobile until next month, are fifth and one of three sides just outside the Champions League positons alongside local rivals Roma and Atalanta, on a high after their bashing of Salernitana which in the end did not cost Nicola his job.

All three are three points behind Inter and Juve, who are still licking their wounds from Naples and beginning a new era behind the scenes.

On Wednesday Juve named a new board led by Gianluca Ferrero who replaces Andrea Agnelli as chairman and takes control of a club whose most recent accounts were 239.3 million euros ($255 million) in the red.

Ferrero and four others will remain at the helm until June 2025 and have a series off-field battles to fight in the coming months, including a probable trial in which the club will have to defend itself against charges of false accounting alongside the previous leadership.

On Friday, Italy's football federation will decide whether to reopen an investigation into Juve's transfer activities after consulting documents from prosecutors in Turin, while UEFA are also probing their finances.

Player to watch: Ademola Lookman

Eight goals in his last 10 matches has put Nigeria forward Lookman behind only compatriot Victor Osimhen in the Serie A scoring charts and made him a fixture in the Atalanta attack.

London-born Lookman is slowly beginning to develop a partnership with young gun Rasmus Hojlund and the pair should start at the Allianz Stadium, where Atalanta won last season and haven't lost in the past four campaigns.

Key stats

9 - Napoli's points lead on Milan, the gap separating Salernitana from the drop zone and Lookman's league goal tally.

3 - the number of team who are three points away from the Champions League positions

Fixtures (times GMT)


Verona v Lecce (1400), Salernitana v Napoli (1700), Fiorentina v Torino (1945)


Sampdoria v Udinese (1130), Monza v Sassuolo (1400), Spezia v Roma (1700), Juventus v Atalanta (1945)


Bologna v Cremonese (1730), Inter Milan v Empoli (1945)


Lazio v AC Milan

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