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Napoli face top-four test against title-chasing Inter

 WHILE Inter Milan is romping towards a seemingly inevitable Serie A title, the battle for Champions League qualification is heating up with Napoli’s top-four ambitions set to be tested when they visit the league leaders on Sunday.

Runaway leaders Inter have a 16-point advantage over second-placed AC Milan with 10 rounds remaining, while champions Napoli are seventh, seven points off fourth-placed Bologna in an increasingly tight contest to book a spot among Europe’s elite next season.

Sitting between them, AS Roma and Atalanta have 48 and 47 points respectively, while Fiorentina trail Napoli by a single point.

Both Inter and Napoli were knocked out of the Champions League this week, freeing them up to focus on their Serie A campaigns.

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Inter boast the meanest defence in Serie A, having conceded only 13 goals so far this season, and while Napoli have struggled to reproduce their title-winning form of last season, they still have some potent attacking weapons at their disposal such as Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Victor Osimhen.

Milan will travel to Hellas Verona on Sunday when top-four chasing Atalanta host Fiorentina in eighth.

The season’s surprise package Bologna will be without key player Joshua Zirkzee when they visit Empoli on Friday after the striker suffered a muscle injury.

Maurizio Sarri resigned as Lazio coach on Wednesday after a turbulent season when his departure had seemed on the cards.

Last season’s runners-up sit in ninth place with 40 points and exited the Champions League in the round of 16 against Bayern Munich.

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Lazio’s new coach Giovanni Martusciello will kick off his reign at third-from-bottom Frosinone on Saturday, needing a win to maintain their already slim top-four hopes after a streak of three straight league defeats.

With only six points in their last seven matches, Massimiliano Allegri’s third-placed Juventus can ill afford further setbacks in their battle with AC Milan for second place. Juve have 58 points and trail Milan by a point.

“We must not lose sight of the objective, which is to qualify for the marvellous competition that is the Champions League,” Allegri said.

“We all have an objective and the fans must recognise too that they want to see us in the Champions League. The team might be criticised, and so can the coach, but nobody can reproach us for our efforts.”

On Sunday they play Genoa, who are in mid-table after earning promotion to the top-flight last season.

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By TOMMY LUND

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