MILAN, Italy, Feb 16 – Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri blasted his side’s “bad attitude” in a 3-1 Europa League defeat to RB Leipzig on Friday but stressed that his team’s focus this season was on the Serie A title.
“It was a bad defeat, we lacked enthusiasm, hunger and determination,” said Sarri after the last 32, first leg loss at a sparsely attended San Paolo Stadium in Naples.
Both Napoli and Juventus turn their focus back to their duel at the top of the Serie A league after a week of mixed fortunes in European action for Italian teams.
Napoli — who lead Juventus by one point — host SPAL who occupy the first relegation spot as Juventus look for a derby boost at Torino, days after throwing away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Tottenham at home in the Champions League.
“The team didn’t play with the right attitude for the colours they represent and the story it represents. This has disappointed me a lot,” said Sarri.
“The mentality must always be the right one. Games can be won or lost, but the mentality must always be right.”
Sarri, whose side had dropped to the second-tier European competition from the elite Champions League, insisted the goal remained a first Scudetto since the glory days of Diego Maradona back in 1990 — but he wanted to see more character from his side.
“It is clear that the primary objective is the championship, but in Europe we have to understand that we need consistent performances to avoid making a bad impression.”
– ‘Hot on Napoli heels’ –
Allegri said he would not be dwelling on the Spurs draw ahead of Sunday’s league return game at Torino, who they crushed 4-0 back in September at the Allianz Stadium.
There was good news for the Juventus boss as Paulo Dybala, Sami Khedira, Mario Mandzukic and Benedikt Howedes all returned to training on Friday, although Blaise Matuidi is still recovering from a muscle strain.
“We will have Dybala and Matuidi back in time for Wembley,” continued Allegri, “but now this match needs to be put aside so that we can concentrate on Serie A and stay hot on the heels of Napoli.”
AC Milan were the only positive note in Europe with their 3-0 Europa League win against Ludogorets in Bulgaria as Atalanta and Lazio both lost their first leg ties.
Inter Milan, in third after claiming their first win in two months last weekend, travel to Genoa on Saturday looking to keep ahead of pursuing AS Roma and Lazio.
Inter are 15 points behind leaders Napoli with Roma just one point behind Luciano Spalletti’s side in the final Champions League place for next season and Lazio a further point adrift.
Inter captain Mauro Icardi and Ivan Perisic are still making their way back from injury and are expected to miss the game in Genoa.
AC Milan host Sampdoria in a clash that could have significance for their push for European football next season with the side from Genoa in sixth, the final Europa League place, three points ahead of Milan.
“It’s a very important game against Sampdoria and we do not want to fail at home,” said in-form Milan striker Patrick Cutrone.
Roma travel to mid-table Udinese ahead of next week’s Champions League trip to Shakhtar Donetsk, with Lazio, who suffered their third consecutive Serie A defeat 4-1 to Napoli last week, followed by a 1-0 Europa League loss in Bucharest, hoping to stop the rot at second-from-bottom Verona on Monday.
Atalanta, just behind Milan in eighth, host Fiorentina, three places below, following the side from Bergamo’s 3-2 Europa League defeat to Borussia Dortmund.
Udinese v AS Roma (5pn); Chievo v Cagliari (8pm), Genoa v Inter Milan (11pm)
Torino v Juventus (2:30pm), Benevento v Crotone, Bologna v Sassuolo, Napoli v SPAL (all 5pm), Atalanta v Fiorentina (8pm), AC Milan v Sampdoria (10:45pm)
Lazio v Verona (10:45pm)