Milan: The Serie A title race takes another intriguing twist at the weekend as leaders Juventus visit Inter Milan and second-placed Napoli face a Fiorentina side whose coach often throws a spanner in their works.
Napoli threw the title race wide open with their 1-0 win at Juventus on Sunday which has left the Turin side with a one-point lead going into the final four games.
There is probably nothing Inter fans would enjoy more than seeing their team help derail Juve’s bid for a seventh successive Serie A title at San Siro on Saturday.
Yet Inter have their own concerns as they are attempting to end a six-season absence from the Champions League and are one point and one place outside the top four, where they need to finish to qualify for next season’s competition.
“I hope Inter fans flock to the stadium to urge us on to a victory we need for our own objectives, and not just to hope for Juve’s downfall,” said Inter coach Luciano Spalletti.
Incredibly, Inter were top of the table and unbeaten when the two sides drew 0-0 in their first meeting of the season in December but they are now 19 points behind Juventus.
A group of Juventus “ultras” visited the team’s Vinovo training ground on Wednesday and let off fireworks to “encourage” the team following Sunday’s loss.
“We knew that the championship this year would be difficult and Napoli have been outstanding,” said Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri. “We have four matches left, we have had one week to get our energy back and prepare for this finale.” Inter are fifth with 66 points, one behind AS Roma and Lazio.
The next two weekends will see Juve play on the Saturday and Napoli on the Sunday. Napoli, however, have asked Serie A organisers for the two contenders to play simultaneously in the final two rounds of matches.
Although Fiorentina are stuck in midtable and have only an outside chance of qualifying for the Europa League, the Artemio Franchi is never an easy place to visit and Napoli have good reason to be wary of rival coach Stefano Pioli.
Pioli was in charge of the Lazio team which beat Napoli 4-2 on the final day of the 2014-15 season to qualify for the Champions League at their expense.
He also coached the Chievo team which pulled off an unlikely double over Napoli in 2010-11 and his Fiorentina side held out for a goalless draw at the San Paolo in December.
Napoli were greeted by an estimated 10,000 people when they flew back to Naples airport in the middle of the night following their late-night win at Juventus last Sunday.
Media reports said on Thursday that airport authorities were studying an emergency plan in case Napoli went top on Sunday, as their plane would return before midnight, causing potential chaos for other passengers.