Viola ready for Napoli, and 'overweight' Higuain
Milan (AFP) –
Title-chasing Napoli and "overweight" Gonzalo Higuain will have to battle a determined Fiorentina on Monday if they are to keep pace with Serie A leaders Juventus, said La Viola coach Paolo Sousa.
If Juventus account for Inter Milan in the 'Derby d'Italia' later Sunday, the champions will stretch their lead over Napoli to four points.
It would heap the pressure on the Azzurri as they continue their bid for a first league crown since 1990, when Argentine legend Diego Maradona helped steer the club to their second 'scudetto' during his time at the club.
Fiorentina are hosting Napoli four days after both clubs saw their Europa League hopes extinguished by Tottenham and Villarreal respectively.
But Fiorentina's sights are firmly on a top three finish and a return to the Champions League, and Sousa believes it is Napoli who have all the pressure.
"The pressure is all on Napoli tomorrow (Monday)," said Sousa. "We're trying to give ourselves a chance (of Champions League football), and we want to keep battling the teams who, for the title, have to show they are worthy.
"Tomorrow will be an extraordinary game in purely emotional terms. But we have to create as many chances as possible and try to win."
Fiorentina could receive some indirect help, if Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis's disparaging comments on Higuain at the weekend fail to end the Argentine marksman's recent drought.
Having failed to score in the league since a 1-0 league win over struggling Carpi three weeks ago, as well as against Villarreal on Thursday, Napoli are worried.
For De Laurentiis, it's all down to the Argentine being overweight.
"If one of the players is a kilogramme and a half overweight, it's like walking around with a brick in your pocket," said De Laurentiis.
"He needs to regain the great form he had six weeks ago, and the goals will return."
Despite De Laurentiis's jibe, Napoli have been the form team in Serie A thus far thanks primarily to coach Maurizio Sarri, who replaced Rafael Benitez in the summer.
Sarri's influence has been felt throughout the club, with Higuain grabbing headlines after scoring 24 league goals in as many games and Lorenzo Insigne hitting the net 11 times in the league.
But Sousa is hoping to unleash his own secret weapon in the shape of Nikola Kalinic.
While Higuain has stolen the spotlight, the Croatian international has hit 12 goals so far, including one in a 2-1 defeat at Napoli earlier in the campaign, in his maiden Serie A campaign.
After a dismal January, Kalinic returned to scoring ways with an 87th minute winner at Atalanta last week and is said to have regained the form that saw him hit a hat-trick in a 4-1 defeat of Inter in September.
A Fiorentina win on Monday would be a filip for Juventus, and give Fiorentina extra belief ahead of a difficult trip to Roma -- who moved up to third with a 3-1 win at Empoli on Saturday -- next week.
Sousa added: "Neither myself nor the lads have ever hidden the fact we want to finish in third place. This week, we have a great chance to consolidate our position."
© 2016 AFP