Hamsik: Three-horse title race
Sat, 08 Dec 2012 12:00:00
Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik believes the current Serie A season is now a three-horse race as two of Juventus' nearest challengers go head to head on Sunday night.
The Azzurri are currently two points shy of Antonio Conte's league leaders with a haul of 33 points, while Sunday's hosts Inter Milan are not far behind in third place.
Napoli's players and management have treated Scudetto as a cursed word as they concentrate on catching Juve, but Hamsik finally dared to utter it while also heaping pressure on Andrea Stramaccioni's Inter.
He told Gazzetta.it: "The favourites for the Scudetto are Juventus, they're really strong and they've shown they can compete with the best teams in Europe in the Champions League.
"I still don't want to talk about the Scudetto but it's pointless to deny the fact that it's our objective.
"There's also Inter, they've won a lot over the last few years. They've got a great team and so it's to be expected that they'll fight for the Scudetto."
Both sides suffered disappointing results in the Europa League this week, with Napoli losing at home to PSV Eindhoven while a young Inter side were held to a draw by Azerbaijani minnows Neftchi Baku.
Stramaccioni is eager to take the positives into the weekend, though, telling La Repubblica: "I congratulate my young boys as it's a sign that the club has a bright future.
"We need to keep working and stay humble but we are optimistic about the future."
Striker Antonio Cassano returns from suspension to boost Inter's hopes against Napoli, with Stramaccioni adding: "Antonio is in great shape and getting him back is key.
"Now we can use him in Sunday's game with Napoli, which is very important."
The injured Wesley Sneijder will not feature, though, as his contract dispute rumbles on at the San Siro. The Dutch playmaker broke a club rule to tweet that he had not been picked for the Neftchi game.
"He hasn't disappointed me," Stramaccioni said.
"It's not such a bad thing. But it was a rule that I'd clearly set in place, and a simple one.
"It was a bit of an error but I suppose there was already enough doubt surrounding his inclusion."
Dejan Stankovic, Joel Obi and Gaby Mudingayi are also injured, while Walter Samuel serves a one-match ban.