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SERIE A

Osimhen’s Napoli may win Serie A title even before their Thursday away match with Udinese

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Napoli v Salernitana - Naples, Italy - April 30, 2023 Napoli fans in the Spanish quarters during the match REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Victor Osimhen and his Napoli team-mates are on the brink of claiming their first Serie A title in 33 years despite failing to win at home last weekend, and they may not even have to play to get their hands on the Scudetto this week and kick off a long-awaited party in Naples.

The league leaders are 18 points ahead with only six games left to play, and they will be crowned champions if second-placed Lazio fail to beat Sassuolo at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday, a day before Napoli themselves play away at Udinese.

Luciano Spalletti emphasised how sluggish his once invincible squad were after a tough month in April where they managed only two wins in seven games in all competitions and crashed out of the Champions League.

“We are currently lacking the sharpness and quality that we had earlier in the season because just like a marathon, the final kilometre is the toughest,” he said.

Depending on the Lazio result, Spalletti said he may rest senior players, while Matteo Politano and Mario Rui will most likely miss the clash due to injuries.

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Udinese could attempt to spoil Napoli’s party just as Salernitana did at the weekend and salvage some points from a lacklustre campaign with the team now 13th, well away from both the relegation zone and the European qualification spots.

Top scorer Beto is expected to return from a back injury for the hosts, giving the home fans hope for a positive outcome.

JUVE DRY SPELL

After having their 15-point deduction overturned in April, Juventus now find themselves in a very different position as they jumped from seventh to third, reigniting their Champions League qualification hopes.

But they have taken only one point from their last four matches and lost to Inter in the Coppa Italia semi-final.

“We had won many games in February and March. We were involved in three competitions until last week, which means the season is going well,” manager Massimiliano Allegri said.

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On paper they are the favourites again when 16th-placed Lecce visit on Wednesday.

In their 1-0 victory against Udinese on Friday, Marco Baroni’s Lecce broke an eight-match winless streak but they remain only four points ahead of Hellas Verona in 18th.

Juve will welcome back winger Angel Di Maria from an ankle injury which kept him out of Sunday’s draw at Bologna as they seek goals, having scored only three in six games.

Lazio, who had been exceptionally consistent in the league in recent months, losing just one match since early January, have lost their last two Serie A games and seen their lead over third-placed Juve cut to just one point.

Maurizio Sarri will have an almost complete squad at his disposal against Sassuolo, including striker Ciro Immobile and defender Luca Pellegrini.

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AS Roma, AC Milan and Inter Milan are all on 57 points as they battle it out for the final Champions League spot.

Simone Inzaghi’s Inter returned to fourth with a win over Lazio on Sunday and his side travel to Verona on Wednesday, while AC Milan welcome second-to-bottom club Cremonese.

Injury-hit AS Roma, who are sixth, travel to 10th-placed Monza on Wednesday while seventh-placed Atalanta host Spezia.

Reuters

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

SERIE A

Osimhen’s Napoli European hopes end with 0-0 draw against Lecce

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If Nigeria’s Victor Osimhen remains in Napoli in the next season, he will not have any action in UEFA competitions.

Napoli lost their slim chances to participate in European competitions next season when they were held to a 0-0 home draw by Lecce in their last Serie A game of the campaign on Sunday.

Last season’s champions Napoli finished 10th on 53 points, level with ninth-placed Torino who were beaten 3-0 at Atalanta in a simultaneous kick off on Sunday.

Despite their loss, Torino can now still earn a Europa Conference League playoffs spot if eighth-placed Fiorentina, who have a game in hand, win the Europa Conference League.

Fiorentina face Greece’s Olympiacos for the title on Wednesday.

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Napoli needed a win to maintain their European hopes but despite 24 shots, five of them on target, they ended their disappointing campaign winless in their last seven games.

Substitute Cyril Ngonge had a good chance to give Napoli the lead just after the break but his shot from the edge of the box was saved by Lecce goalkeeper Wladimiro Falcone.

Jens Cajuste hit the far post with a low strike shortly before Ngonge hit the bar in the 64th minute.

Europa League winners Atalanta, meanwhile, secured at least fourth spot after Gianluca Scamacca, Ademola Lookman and Mario Pasalic were all on target in a 3-0 win against Torino.

They sit fourth on 69 points but can still leapfrog third-placed Juventus, on 71 points, if they beat Fiorentina in their last remaining game next Sunday.

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-Reuters

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SERIE A

Osimhen’s Napoli European hopes hanging by a thread

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Italian champions Napoli’s hopes of playing European football next season were hanging by a thread after they played out a 2-2 draw at Fiorentina in Serie A on Friday.

Napoli took the lead in the eighth minute through defender Amir Rrahmani, who nodded home a corner by Matteo Politano.

Cristiano Biraghi levelled for Fiorentina in the 40th minute from a free kick, before M’Bala Nzola put the hosts in front two minutes later when he fired a shot into the bottom corner of the net.

Napoli’s Khvicha Kvaratskhelia responded with another stunning free kick early in the second half to rescue a point for his team.

Eighth-placed Fiorentina, on 54 points and with a game in hand, are five points behind Lazio in seventh.

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They can still earn a Europa League spot either by leap-frogging the Rome side or by winning the Europa Conference League final in which they face Greece’s Olympiakos on May 29.

Ninth-placed Napoli, on 52 points, still have a slim chance of making the Europa Conference League playoffs.

-Reuters

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SERIE A

Last chance for Osimhen’s Napoli to clinch continental ticket

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Serie A - Napoli v AS Roma - Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, Naples, Italy - April 28, 2024 Napoli's Victor Osimhen celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates REUTERS/Ciro De Luca

Napoli’s defence of the Serie A title has long since ended and they must beat Fiorentina on Friday to have any hope of playing European football next season.

Napoli strolled to the Scudetto last year, clinching the title with five games to spare and finishing 16 points ahead of runners-up Lazio.

This time around it was Inter Milan who wrapped up the league with five games remaining, and Napoli are ninth in the standings, 41 points adrift of the leaders with a Conference League spot their only chance of European competition.

Fiorentina, two points ahead of Napoli with a game in hand, won their previous meeting 3-1 which could prove vital should the sides end the season level on points and the head-to-head record comes into play.

Napoli are without a win in their last five games, while Fiorentina have won three of their last five league matches.

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Fiorentina have qualified for this season’s Conference League final, where they face Greek side Olympiakos in Athens, looking to go one better than last year when they lost to West Ham United in the final

The Viola, unbeaten in Europe this season, will look to end the league campaign on a high and take that momentum into the final.

Napoli will probably be without top scorer Victor Osimhen, a serious doubt for the trip to Florence with a muscular problem, while Fiorentina welcome back Andre Belotti who missed Monday’s win over Monza.

Atalanta will bid to overcome the disappointment of Wednesday’s Coppa Italia final loss to Juventus when they play Lecce away on Saturday. Atalanta are fifth, the last Champions League spot, with a three-point lead over AS Roma and a game in hand.

Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta side may well go into this game with one eye on next week’s Europa League final against Bayer Leverkusen, and victory in that would also guarantee them Champions League football.

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Roma can take advantage of an Atalanta slip-up when they host Genoa on Sunday. Lazio are one point behind Roma in seventh and travel to champions Inter.

Bologna moved into third place ahead of Juventus on goal difference last weekend, and the sides meet on Monday, where the hosts will hope Juve continue a poor league run of five successive draws. AC Milan, who have secured second place, are at Torino on Saturday.

There is still much to be decided at the bottom of the table.

Salernitana, the only club definitely relegated, on Monday they host Hellas Verona who are 14th in the standings, two points ahead of Empoli in 17th.

Empoli on Sunday visit Udinese, another side in danger who one point ahead in 15th. Sassuolo are 19th, three points from safety, and must beat 16th-placed Cagliari on Sunday to give themselves any hope of survival.

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-Reuters

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