‘Sad’ Inter return to Serie A title chase as Gattuso takes Napoli reins
Inter Milan turn their focus back to the Serie A title chase after their Champions League flop while Gennaro Gattuso begins life as Napoli coach trying to end their seven-game winless run in Italian league action this weekend.
Inter Milan was the only one of Italy’s four Champions League teams to fail to make the knockout rounds after a 2-1 defeat against Barcelona in the San Siro.
Antonio Conte’s league leaders, who have a two-point advantage over champions Juventus, travel to 13th-placed Fiorentina, with their focus on claiming a first Serie A title since 2010.
Inter stars Romelu Lukaku (ten) and Lautaro Martinez (eight) have between them scored as many goals as the entire Fiorentina squad this season, with the Tuscan side on a run of four consecutive defeats.
“I saw much disappointment in the players’ eyes and I was sad about that. We have to raise our heads again,” said Conte.
“We have two games to go before the Christmas break and hopefully we can bring back some players from injury.”
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus host Udinese, in 16th, on Sunday after their unbeaten run ended last weekend against Lazio in Rome.
Portuguese star Ronaldo has scored in his last three games including the midweek Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen.
In a battle between third and fourth, in-form Lazio and Cagliari go head-to-head.
Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio can extend their winning streak to eight consecutive games but Cagliari are unbeaten in the league since September 1.
Just behind, Roma host rock bottom SPAL needing to win to keep in touch, as do Atalanta, who travel Bologna after reaching the Champions League last 16 in their first season in Europe.
In seventh, Napoli are eight points off the Champions League places. A winless league run stretching back to October 19 cost Carlo Ancelotti his job, despite a thumping 4-0 win over Genk in Europe this week.
Gattuso, 41, takes over from his former AC Milan mentor Ancelotti, and his first game is at the San Paolo Stadium against Parma.
“This is a team that cannot miss the Champions League and the goal is to regain the ground that separates us from the top places,” said Gattuso.
“Ancelotti is like a father to me. He also gave me advice on how to help the team,” continued the former Glasgow Rangers player.
“I could not have wished for a better team, I have players available who marry perfectly with my tactical idea.
“I think this team can swim against the current.
“Napoli is a big sea where you can drown. But those who know me, know that I am not afraid of anything.”
AC Milan host Sassuolo chasing a third consecutive win for the first time this season to move up from tenth place.
Genoa host city rivals Sampdoria in a relegation battle.
One to watch
Vincenzo Montella’s position as Fiorentina coach is under threat, with the club five points above the relegation zone with just one point from their last five games.
The 45-year-old took over last April with the club avoiding relegation by just three points. The former AC Milan and Sevilla coach had also coached Fiorentina between 2012 and 2015, guiding them to three successive fourth-place finishes in Serie A.
“I didn’t come here to lose,” warned the club’s new owner Rocco Commisso after last weekend’s defeat.
200 – Gennaro Gattuso’s games as a coach since 2013
50 – Brescia striker Mario Balotelli’s Serie A goals
17 – Napoli’s points off leaders Inter Milan
13 – Cagliari’s unbeaten run
7 – Napoli’s league games without a win
6 – Sampdoria’s unbeaten run against Genoa
2 – Points been leaders Inter Milan and Juventus
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Brescia v Lecce (1400), Napoli v Parma (1700), Genoa v Sampdoria (1945)
Verona v Torino (1130), Bologna v Atalanta, Juventus v Udinese, AC Milan v Sassuolo (all 1400), AS Roma v SPAL (1700), Fiorentina v Inter Milan (1945).
Cagliari v Lazio (1945).