Inter head to revived Napoli with Serie A lead in the balance

Juan Cuadrado in action for Inter Milan. File photo

Inter Milan defend their slender lead at the top of Serie A on Sunday when they travel to reigning champions Napoli with Juventus breathing down their necks.

Simone Inzaghi’s side maintained their two-point advantage over Juve with last weekend’s scrappy draw in Turin but have another tough test in Naples to complete what has been a tricky week.

Inter travel south on Sunday after Wednesday’s 3-3 Champions League draw at Benfica as they plough through a punishing schedule aiming to be top gun both at home and abroad.

Their second string coming back from three goals down at the Estadio da Luz gave them 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 themselves behind Juve before they take to the field in Naples as their closest rivals are at Monza on Friday night in the opening match of the weekend.

Monza have shown no signs of second season syndrome in Italy’s top flight and are nestled in ninth place.

Raffaele Palladino’s side are 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 are 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 are AC Milan, who are 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 who are 10th and having a great time back in Serie A.

Milan, who have won just two of their last eight matches in all competitions, are for now backing under-fire coach Stefano Pioli but another bad result will pile further pressure on both him and the club.

Player to watch: Victor Osimhen

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of Osimhen to Napoli and the Nigeria striker will be top billing for Sunday’s fixture, which will show whether his team can recover their faltering title defence.

Inter have the league’s best defence with just seven goals conceded in 13 matches and Osimhen will be the key threat for Napoli after recovering from his hamstring injury.

A combination of injury and his team’s underwhelming performances also means that the 24-year-old is trailing the league’s leading scorer Lautaro Martinez by seven goals.

Key stats

8 – the points gap separating Napoli and Inter

2 – Napoli have won just twice in Naples all season, with their last home victory in any competition coming against Udinese at the end of September.

Fixtures (times GMT)


Monza v Juventus


Genoa v Empoli (1400), Lazio v Cagliari (1700), AC Milan v Frosinone (1945)


Lecce v Bologna (1130), Fiorentina v Salernitana (1400), Udinese v Verona (both 1400), Sassuolo v Roma (1700), Napoli v Inter (1945)


Torino v Atalanta (1945)

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