Soccer-Serie A leaders Napoli cannot afford to skip a beat


FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Champions League - Group A - Rangers v Napoli - Ibrox, Glasgow, Scotland, Britain - September 14, 2022 Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti reacts REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

(Reuters) - Table leaders Napoli are on an unbeaten run in Serie A and will travel to 19th-placed Cremonese on Sunday with Tuesday's 6-1 demolition of Ajax in Amsterdam in the Champions League group stage likely to give them a further confidence boost.

Manager Luciano Spalletti however did not waste any time celebrating their remarkable win in Europe as he is set on ensuring Napoli avoid the curse of inconsistency which seems to have afflicted AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus.

"We need to win the next one because if the rhythm of things we have to do is lost then you are more disappointed," Spalletti said.

While the three big have also struggled to get their best team on the field, Napoli have been helped by a lack of injuries as well as Khvicha Kvaratskhelia's impressive debut in Serie A.

The 21-year-old Georgia forward has scored five goals in his first eight Serie A matches. Only Edinson Cavani had a better debut than him since the 1994-1995 season in his first 10 games at Napoli in 2010-2011, a record he can still break.

Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri could finally catch a breath after two consecutive wins in all competitions but the real test for the Turin-based side will be on Saturday as they travel to defending champions Milan, who are fifth in Serie A.

While Juve have welcomed back Angel Di Maria and could see the return of Paul Pogba and Federico Chiesa in a month, Milan manager Stefano Pioli has been left without the services of Davide Calabria, Alexis Saelemaekers and Simon Kjaer.

However, Pioli did not blame Milan's crushing 3-0 defeat at Chelsea in the Champions League group stage on Wednesday on the absences.

"It hurts, but it should give us even more determination and attention in preparing our match with Juventus," Pioli said.

Bergamo-based Atalanta, second in the table on 20 points like leaders Napoli, could have 23 points after nine games for the first time in their Serie A history if they seal a fifth consecutive win at third-placed Udinese on Sunday.

Fourth-placed Lazio are on a three-win streak in Serie A for the first time since Maurizio Sarri took the reins in July 2021 and will travel to 11th-placed Fiorentina on Monday.

Jose Mourinho's AS Roma, sixth in the table, will host 13th-placed Lecce on Sunday three days after clashing with Spanish side Real Betis in the Europa League.

(Reporting by Silvia Recchimuzzi in Gdansk; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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