Serie A: Napoli relaunches charge towards history with tough Inter test

Napoli recommences its bid for a first Italian title in over three decades when it faces rival Inter Milan on Wednesday as Serie A gets back underway with one of the league's most hotly-anticipated fixtures.

Luciano Spalletti's team has already won once this season at the San Siro, claiming the points in a tight contest with reigning champion AC Milan, over which it defends an eight-point lead at the top of the division.

Napoli is hoping to extend an 11-match winning streak and maintain an unbeaten record in Italy's top flight after having dropped just four points in 15 matches.

They also have the league's best attack after scoring 37 times before the World Cup, nine of those coming from Victor Osimhen, who tops the scoring charts and is one of a host of well-rested players who didn't travel to Qatar.

Another of those is wing wizard Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, the Georgian heir to icon Diego Maradona, ready to start after not featuring since Napoli's Champions League defeat at Liverpool at the start of November which is its only defeat of the season so far.

Champion in 2021 and challenger until the final day of last season, fifth-placed Inter will provide a stern test of Napoli's Scudetto credentials after Milan open 2023's fixtures at Salernitana.

Simone Inzaghi's team is 11 points off the pace in fifth but has won six of the last seven and will have star striker Romelu Lukaku back after injury troubles and humiliation at the World Cup.

On Monday, Inter revealed midfield lynchpin Marcelo Brozovic would be out with a calf injury.

"Until the moment in which a team lifts the trophy anything is possible. That's why we play football, you have to believe in the impossible," said Lukaku in an interview with Sky at the weekend.

Ready to take advantage of a Napoli slip-up is Juventus, which is at struggling Cremonese and embroiled in one of Italian soccer's biggest scandals in years.

Juve is set to name an entire new board later this month after the previous one collectively stepped down as prosecutors in Turin accuse the club of a variety of financial crimes.

Those include lying to the stock market when announcing at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic that players would help the club save 90 million euros by giving up four month's pay, instead allegedly making a private agreement for the team to forgo just one payment.

However, Juve is sitting third after recovering from a dismal start to the season with six straight league wins leading up to the World Cup break.

Juve will be missing Dusan Vlahovic as coach Massimiliano Allegri deals with a series of injuries which still includes Paul Pogba, who missed the World Cup for finalist France and is yet to play a single game for the club since returning last summer.

Player to watch: Romelu Lukaku

Made into a figure of fun after his display of poor finishing in Belgium's World Cup group-stage elimination, Lukaku is now fit and ready to rebuild his reputation as one of Europe's most feared strikers.

The 29-year-old missed a hatful of chances in a goalless draw with Croatia which ended the Red Devils' chances in Qatar but hadn't even played a half of football since August before coming on as a second-half substitute.

"Croatia was a huge disappointment but I told myself: 'Romelu, you weren't 100 percent, you'd only had two training sessions," said Lukaku. "I was rightly massacred but now I really want to get back out on the field."

Wednesday: Salernitana vs. AC Milan, Sassuolo vs. Sampdoria, Spezia vs. Atalanta, Torino vs. Verona, Lecce vs. Lazio, Roma vs. Bologna, Cremonese vs. Juventus, Fiorentina vs.  Monza, Inter Milan vs. Napoli, Udinese vs. Empoli.
Viewing: Soccer on TV


© Agence France-Presse
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