Football: Napoli hope for Serie A success as European hopes fade

Leaders Napoli turn their focus back to Serie A after a bruising Champions League defeat to Manchester City midweek in which defender Faouzi Ghoulam picked up a serious knee injury.

Football: Napoli hope for Serie A success as European hopes fade
Napoli's Marko Rog (L) vies with Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus, November 1st 2017. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP.

Algerian international Ghoulam could be out for months after tearing a cruciate ligament in his right knee during the 4-2 defeat which effectively ends Napoli's elite European challenge.

Maurizio Sarri's side – with 31 points after 11 games – travel to mid-table Chievo on Sunday looking to pull further ahead of rivals Inter Milan, who are just two points adrift and fresh after their absence from European football when they host northern Italian outfit Torino, who are in ninth.

But Ghoulam's absence should cause headaches for Sarri who will be forced to shuffle around Elseid Hysaj and Christian Maggio, or bring in Portuguese Mario Rui, who has played little in the past year.

“Right now [Ghoulam is] one of the best full-backs in Europe,” said Sarri. “He's an important player for us and it'll be difficult for us to replace him.”

Juventus celebrate a goal against Sporting CP, October 31st 2017. Photo: Patricia de Melo Moreira/AFP.

Champions Juventus, three points behind Napoli, can make up ground as they host tailenders Benevento, who have lost all their 11 games.

Massimiliano Allegri's side were held 1-1 in Champions League by Sporting Lisbon, but are still in the running for the last-16.

Despite their predicament Benevento forward Pietro Iemmello remains optimistic of staying in the top flight.

“It's a tough moment for everyone, the only way to react is to work and never give up,” said Iemmello.

“Last year's championship taught us that Crotone made a final sprint and saved more than 30 points. This year maybe we can do the same.”

'Not a fluke'

Lazio, joint third with Juventus, host Udinese after maintaining their 100 percent Europa League record with a 1-0 win over Nice to move into the last 32.

“We are the only team in Europe to have won four out of four matches,” said coach Simone Inzaghi with pride as his side target a third Serie A title and first since 2000.

“The hardest is yet to come. We have to recover and regain energy for Udinese on Sunday. We have to continue to prove that we're not a fluke.

“The lads have shown me that with hard work and consistency, we can fight it out with anyone.

“We've been near the top of the table for a couple of years now, so we're not a fluke,” added Inzaghi, whose side are the only team to beat Juventus this season.

Meanwhile, the Roman club announced that their fans can again buy tickets for the south end at the Stadio Olympico where they posted photos of Holocaust victim Anne Frank in a Roma jersey two weeks ago.

Their own north end – in the stadium they share with Roma – had been closed following racist chants during a game against Sassuolo last month.

In fifth, Roma, boosted by their 3-0 Champions League win over Chelsea, travel to Fiorentina two places below them.

Roma have the meanest defence in Serie A with just five goals conceded, and Brazilian defender Juan Jesus said that confidence was riding high after their Chelsea rout.

“It could even have been 5-0. We respect Chelsea, but both the match in London [3-3] and Rome proved that we can beat anyone on our day.”

Seven-time European champions AC Milan, in the midst of a poor run of form in Serie A and sitting eighth, will be looking for some relief at struggling Sassuolo.

Under-fire manager Vincenzo Montella's difficulties will not have been helped by a 0-0 Europa League draw at AEK Athens despite the Italians remaining two points clear of their Greek hosts in Group D.

AC Milan's Andre Silva (L) vies for the ball with AEK's Ognjen Vranjes, November 2nd 2017. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP.


Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players’ ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome

Italy’s national football team reportedly insisted on taking an open-top bus tour through Rome to show off their European Championship trophy to crowds of fans - despite city authorities forbidding it amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players' ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The team’s bus parade through the city on Monday night following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorised”, according to Matteo Piantedosi the head of Rome’s prefettura (the public safety authority).

Thousands of fans packed the streets of central Rome to see the team celebrate their cup win after beating England on penalties in the final.

READ ALSO: ‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Piantedosi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday: “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected.”

Piantedosi, who is Rome’s top public security official, said police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A meeting had been held on Friday with the Italian football federation (FIGC) to discuss plans for the celebrations if Italy won, said Piantedosi.

“I had agreed the line with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Chief of Police Lamberto Giannini,” he said.

“It was clearly explained that [the parade] was not possible. We said we could not authorize it.”

Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade.

After players insisted on the bus tour on Monday however, Piantedosi said, authorities reluctantly let them go ahead due to fears of sparking public disorder.

“At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid cases on the rise in Europe once again as WHO warns of Euro 2020 risk

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday, the FIGC said it had acted responsibly but decided not to disappoint fans who had come to celebrate with the team.

Footage of large crowds thronging the bus carrying the ‘Azzurri’ and the European Championship trophy through the capital however fuelled concerns about new outbreaks of coronavirus, after Italy’s infection rate began to rise again last week.

The World Health Organization warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns on Monday about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events.

He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” but “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat Covid is not yet won.”

There are currently minimal health restrictions in place across Italy, however masks are supposed to be worn in crowded public places, including outdoors.

“Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi.