(Reuters) – Serie A leaders Napoli welcome second-placed AC Milan to Naples on Sunday with the increasingly unpredictable title race set for further twists and turns.
Champions Inter Milan went into the Serie A winter break in fine form, sitting top of the table after a 2021 to remember in which they sealed their first Scudetto in 11 years.
However, a run of four league games without a win enabled city rivals AC Milan to climb to the summit, as they chase their first league title since 2011, only for Stefano Pioli’s side to then squander their advantage over the rest.
Milan have drawn their last two leagues games against teams that they would normally expect to beat – bottom-placed Salernitana and Udinese at home – which has opened the door for Sunday’s opponents Napoli.
A last-gasp winner at Lazio last weekend saw Napoli become the latest side to go top, a victory which will give them confidence going into Sunday’s clash.
Especially given they have had a week’s rest between matches, while Milan had a brutal Coppa Italia semi-final first leg on Tuesday against Inter, which they drew.
“We will have the time necessary both to prepare for the Sunday’s match and to recover energy, I have strong players,” Pioli said after the Inter match.
“Against Napoli it will be a difficult match, they are deservedly leading the championship. They are playing for the Scudetto with us, Inter, Juventus and Atalanta. We need to really be at our top level.”
Inter could climb back to the top on Friday if they beat Salernitana, but their Coppa draw against Milan meant they have gone five without a win in all competitions.
Even more worryingly, the normally free-scoring champions are now without a goal in their last four games.
The form of the top teams has allowed Juventus to creep back into the title race.
All looked lost earlier in the season as Massimiliano Allegri’s men languished off the pace for the top four, but a run of one defeat in their last 19 matches in all competitions means Juve are now fourth, seven points behind Napoli. They host Spezia on Saturday.
Elsewhere this weekend, Jose Mourinho serves the second game of his two-match touchline ban as his AS Roma side welcome Atalanta to the capital.
(Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Toby Davis)