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Roma lead under pressure as Napoli host Sassuolo
Published : 24 Sep 2013 10:01:54Rss feed
Roma's bid to tighten their grip on Serie A is likely to be kept in check Wednesday when the Italian top flight's whipping boys Sassuolo visit bona fide title challengers Napoli.
Roma finished a disappointing seventh last season but are enjoying some time in the spotlight having won their opening four games, including a 2-0 derby win over Lazio Sunday, under new coach Rudi Garcia.
Despite feeling buoyant ahead of their visit to Sampdoria, Roma's time in the hot seat may soon be over.
Napoli sit second, also on 12 points, and only failed to retake command of the league later Sunday when an injury-time goal by Mario Balotelli reduced arrears for Milan in a 2-1 win for Napoli at the San Siro.
Only a one-goal difference separates the sides but with Inter putting seven unanswered goals past hosts Sassuolo on Sunday, Napoli's fans will expect nothing less than three points and plenty of goals when the league's new boys visit the San Paolo on Wednesday.
Napoli will be without Italy midfielder Christian Maggio after it was revealed Monday that he is to undergo knee surgery after picking up a meniscus injury.
But his loss is unlikely to affect Napoli's expected domination of Sassuolo, who are reportedly looking to replace Eusebio Di Francesco as soon as possible.
In the meantime the under-fire coach said he took "full responsibility" for Sunday's humiliation and expects his team to bounce back.
"Inter proved they are a great side, but we just didn't play up to the standard required for the top flight," he told Sky Sports Italia.
"I am someone who never throws in the towel, and I have to get that message across to the players."
With Inter v Fiorentina arguably the biggest clash of the midweek games on Thursday, Juventus, Lazio and above all Milan will be looking to capitalise against inferior opposition to move up the table.
Juventus sit fifth only two points adrift of Roma and Napoli and are away to struggling Chievo, while Lazio, a further four points adrift, host struggling Catania looking to make amends for the derby defeat.
Milan, meanwhile, face a potential banana skin away to Bologna where the Rossoneri will make the trip without Balotelli, who has been handed a three-match ban.
Against Napoli on Sunday, an unconvincing Milan side produced a much improved performance in the second half but missed the net on several occasions and finished the game in 11th, eight points behind the leaders.
Notably, Balotelli missed his first ever penalty in the professional game, his scoring streak ending at 21 when Spanish 'keeper Pepe Reina saved his effort from the spot just after the hour.
Although Balotelli made amends in injury time, his frustration boiled over after the final whistle when he saw red after being cautioned for dissent.
On Monday he was handed a three-game ban, leaving Milan -- who are already missing several key players through injury -- sorely exposed.
Although Bologna are struggling down in 16th, Milan have yet to win away from home this season.
Fixtures (all times 1845 GMT)
Udinese v Genoa
Bologna v Milan, Chievo v Juventus, Lazio v Catania, Livorno v Cagliari, Napoli v Sassuolo, Parma v Atalanta, Sampdoria v Roma, Torino v Verona
Inter v Fiorentina
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