Serie A: Napoli resumes title charge at Salernitana where sacked coach Davide Nicola gets second chance

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

Runaway league leader thanks to its whirlwind, five-goal destruction of Juventus on Friday, Napoli was then dumped straight back down to earth by Serie A's winless last-place team Cremonese on Tuesday. The penalty shootout exit on a rainy-day in Naples looked to be the biggest shock that this week would have to offer, but Salernitana overshadowed the local rivals the very next morning.

Salernitana was searching for a coach after sacking Davide Nicola, the architect of last season's great escape from relegation, on Monday following the 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 teams occupying the bottom three spots in the standings.

However, in a Facebook post published on Wednesday Nicola said he pleaded with owner Danilo Iervolino to be kept on. The club confirmed to AFP that he had reclaimed his post less than 48 hours after being dismissed. It remains to be seen if 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 two weeks ago.

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

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

All three are three points behind Inter and Juve, which is still licking its 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 by the previous leadership. On Friday, Italy's soccer 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 have put the Nigerian 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 youngster 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.

Saturday: Verona vs. Lecce, Salernitana vs. Napoli, Fiorentina vs. Torino
Sunday: Sampdoria vs. Udinese, Monza vs. Sassuolo, Spezia vs. Roma, Juventus vs. Atalanta
Monday: Bologna vs. Cremonese, Inter Milan vs. Empoli
Tuesday: Lazio vs. AC Milan


© Agence France-Presse

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