Serie A: Napoli 'to keep hands on wheel' as Paul Pogba return boosts Juve

Napoli manager Luciano Spalletti said his players are drowning out what he sees as premature title chatter despite knowing that victory over Lazio on Friday would send them 21 points clear in Serie A. The league leader has won eight games in a row and 19 of its past 20 in the top-flight — a run that began with a 2-1 victory at Lazio on September 3.

"We're not listening to those who want us to take our hands off the wheel and start celebrating, because there are still twists and turns to come," Spalletti said. "Our fans must take to the field with us and not wait for us at the finish line."

Napoli is closing in on a first Serie A crown since the days of Diego Maradona, who inspired the club to its only two league titles in 1987 and 1990. The team has dropped just seven points over 24 games this season and midfielder Eljif Elmas insisted Napoli has no intention of slowing down.

"Eighteen points is a big margin, but honestly we're not looking at the table because we want to try to win every game we have left," Elmas told Radio Kiss Kiss. "We're playing good soccer and our aim is to maintain this pace and keep doing what we're doing because we deserve to be where we are. We're not getting carried away and we're not going to ease up at all."

Lazio is back in the Champions League places following wins over Salernitana and Sampdoria, but city rival Roma, in fifth, will be eager to atone for its shock midweek loss to Cremonese. Roma will be without Jose Mourinho for Sunday's match vs. Juventus because the Portuguese manager was hit with a two-match ban after receiving his third red card of the season against Cremonese.

"I'm emotional but not crazy," Mourinho said. The league said that after the match he also "entered the referees' dressing room without permission and made seriously offensive statements."

"For the first time in my career a referee has spoken to me in an unjustifiable way," Mourinho added. "To react like that, something must have happened. We need to see if we can do anything from a disciplinary perspective."

AC Milan has recovered from a dreadful start to 2023 by winning its past four games in all competitions without conceding any goals. Stefano Pioli's team faces Fiorentina on Saturday ahead of next week's second leg against Tottenham in the Champions League round of 16, while Inter Milan host Lecce on Sunday.

One to watch: Paul Pogba

The French midfielder made his first competitive appearance since April as Juventus defeated Torino 4-2 in the Turin derby on Tuesday. Pogba injured his right knee during preseason in July shortly after his return to Juve following six years at Manchester United. The 29-year-old won four Serie A titles in as many seasons during his first spell in Italy, and Juve hopes his recovery can help the club make an improbable push for a top-four place following a 15-point deduction for illicit transfer activity.

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

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© Agence France-Presse

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