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Football | Italy

Giorgio Chiellini and Edinson Cavani © Gallo Images

Juve out to settle title race in Naples



It is now or never for Napoli when they welcome leaders Juventus on Friday, looking to halve their six-point gap in the race for the Serie A title.

Juve, on 58 points from 26 games, would be happy with a draw at the freshly relaid San Paolo, and could consider a second straight title as virtually secured if they win, opening a nine-point lead with 11 games left.

Star playmaker Andrea Pirlo, a 2006 world champion veteran who has enjoyed a new lease of life since joining Juve from AC Milan in 2011, said he does not consider the game in Naples a decisive one.

"We are not at the end of the season. It will not set certainties," the 33-year-old told la Repubblica. "After we play it, there will be room for all kinds of changes. It is an important game, but not to the point of loading it with expectations.

"Years go by for everyone, but I feel to be at the same level of the past season, which was one of my best."

Another 2006 world champion, the retired Naples-born Fabio Cannavaro, urged the hosts captained by his brother Paolo to play a bold game.

Cannavaro, a full-back like his brother, opened his career at Napoli and achieved notoriety at Juve, winning the Ballon d'Or in 2006.

"Juve are beatable this year," he told radio Kiss Kiss, "therefore it takes a high-level showing. For sure it will not be an easy game. Napoli have not been exciting (in scoreless draws) against Sampdoria and Udinese and now have to react. If Napoli play as they can, they can win."

After a memorable unbeaten season, Juve suffered a fourth defeat in the current one when they lost 1-0 at Roma two weeks ago, but bounced back last weekend with a 3-0 win against in-form Siena.

Napoli struggled in February, with six points from the past four games, Serie A top scorer Edinson Cavani rooted on 18 goals, and elimination in the Europa League.

The Uruguayan looks to end his drought against the league's rockier defence, which conceded 17 goals, four less than Napoli, whose coach Walter Mazzarri plans to field Macedonian Goran Pandev next to Cavani.

The Bianconeri hope to have international defender Giorgio Chiellini available as Mirko Vucinic plays upfront alongside either Alessandro Matri or Sebastian Giovinco.

Another big match is set for Saturday between Milan and Lazio, with the Rome hosts PREVIEW: Leaders Juventus may settle title race in Naples By Alberto Cagliano, dpa

Rome (dpa) - It is now or never for Napoli when they welcome leaders Juventus on Friday, looking to halve their six-point gap in the race for the Serie A title.

Juve, on 58 points from 26 games, would be happy with a draw at the freshly relaid San Paolo, and could consider a second straight title as virtually secured if they win, opening a nine-point lead with 11 games left.

Star play-maker Andrea Pirlo, a 2006 world champion veteran who has enjoyed a new lease of life since joining Juve from AC Milan in 2011, said he does not consider the game in Naples a decisive one.

"We are not at the end of the season. It will not set certainties," the 33-year-old told la Repubblica. "After we play it, there will be room for all kinds of changes. It is an important game, but not to the point of loading it with expectations.

"Years go by for everyone, but I feel to be at the same level of the past season, which was one of my best."

Another 2006 world champion, the retired Naples-born Fabio Cannavaro, urged the hosts captained by his brother Paolo to play a bold game.

Cannavaro, a full-back like his brother, opened his career at Napoli and achieved notoriety at Juve, winning the Ballon d'Or in 2006.

"Juve are beatable this year," he told radio Kiss Kiss, "therefore it takes a high-level showing. For sure it will not be an easy game. Napoli have not been exciting (in scoreless draws) against Sampdoria and Udinese and now have to react. If Napoli play as they can, they can win."

After a memorable unbeaten season, Juve suffered a fourth defeat in the current one when they lost 1-0 at Roma two weeks ago, but bounced back last weekend with a 3-0 win against in-form Siena.

Napoli struggled in February, with six points from the past four games, Serie A top scorer Edinson Cavani rooted on 18 goals, and elimination in the Europa League.

The Uruguayan looks to end his drought against the league's rockier defence, which conceded 17 goals, four less than Napoli, whose coach Walter Mazzarri plans to field Macedonian Goran Pandev next to Cavani.

The Bianconeri hope to have international defender Giorgio Chiellini available as Mirko Vucinic plays upfront alongside either Alessandro Matri or Sebastian Giovinco.

Another big match is set for Saturday between Milan and Lazio, with the Rome hosts on 47 points, two points above the Devils and defending a third place which would qualify for the play-offs of the next Champions League.

Inter Milan are one point behind the Devils, but face a tough task at in-form Catania on Sunday in a programme including Torino v Palermo, Siena v Atalanta, Bologna v Cagliari, Fiorentina v Chievo, Pescara v Udinese and the late tie Roma v Genoa.

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