Napoli forward Higuain following in Maradona's footsteps
ABS-CBN Sports on Nov 27, 2015 10:02 AM
Napoli's Gonzalo Higuain, center, celebrates with teammates after scoring during a Serie A soccer match against Hellas Verona at Bentegodi stadium in Verona, Italy, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Felice Calabro')
MILAN (AP) — Napoli forward Gonzalo Higuain will have an added incentive in his side's top-of-the-table clash at home to Inter Milan on Monday.
Higuain can equal the record of another Argentine who played for Napoli — a certain Diego Maradona.
No one else has scored in eight consecutive home matches for Napoli.
Higuain has found the back of the net in seven successive matches at the San Paolo: against Sampdoria, Lazio, Juventus, Fiorentina, Palermo and Udinese this season, as well as against Lazio at the end of the last campaign.
Maradona, who is regarded as one of the greatest ever players, set the record in the 1987/88 season.
Higuain leads the Serie A goalscoring charts with 10 and will be fresh for Monday's match having been rested for Napoli's Europa League fixture.
Napoli would leapfrog Inter into top spot with a win. Maurizio Sarri's team is two points behind Inter, level on points with Fiorentina, which visits Sassuolo earlier that evening.
"I hoped this was our time, but I thought our progress would have been slower and more gradual," Sarri said. "But instead the lads have had two extraordinary months, but you become great if you maintain this for 10 months."
Napoli's goal difference is only one more than Fiorentina.
Roma is fourth, just three points behind Inter as this season is shaping up to become one of the most exciting title races of the past few years.
The capital side will be eager to bounce back at home to Atalanta after a miserable week, which saw it held to a 2-2 draw at relegation-threatened Bologna last weekend and get crushed 6-1 at Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Juventus fared better in Europe and booked its place in the knockout stages. It heads to Palermo on Sunday looking for a fourth successive win to continue its climb up the table.
Also on Sunday, it's: Chievo Verona vs. Udinese; Frosinone vs. Hellas Verona; Genoa vs. Carpi; and Empoli vs. Lazio.
AC Milan hosts Sampdoria on Saturday, after Bologna visits Torino.
Here are some things to know about this weekend's Italian league matches:
POINT TO PROVE
Inter found its scoring boots last weekend as it thumped Frosinone 4-0 for its first win by more than a one-goal margin since April.
Napoli forwards Lorenzo Insigne and Higuain have scored more goals between them (17) than the entire Inter team (16).
Napoli also has the second meanest defense in the league, having conceded only eight goals — one more that Inter.
Moreover, critics of Inter say the Nerazzurri have yet to prove themselves against a top team after Roberto Mancini's side was crushed 4-1 at home by Fiorentina — although it did beat Roma 1-0.
Mancini insists the match at Napoli is not an early title decider but a win for Inter would demonstrate its title credentials and see it emerge as genuine contenders.
MIHAJLOVIC MEETS HIS PAST
AC Milan coach Sinisa Mihajlovic is fighting for his future against his past when Sampdoria arrives at the San Siro on Saturday night.
Mihajlovic spent a total of six years at Sampdoria, four as a player in the 1990s and two as a coach before leaving the club to take the Milan job last summer.
Milan heads into the match on the back of a drab goalless draw against Atalanta and a 1-0 loss at Juventus. The results were all the more disappointing, coming immediately after three successive wins.
While Mihajlovic's position is not in any immediate danger, another poor performance would see the pressure grow.
"We have to do everything to win, there are no alternatives," Milan midfielder Andrea Poli said. "We are capable of player better and we must do so. Despite the last two results our spirit as a group and our relationship with the coach are intact."
KALINIC ON SONG
Nikola Kalinic has burst into the spotlight at the age of 27.
Few would have known about the Fiorentina forward before this season, after a largely unmarked career which included spells at Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk and Blackburn Rovers — where he scored only a handful of Premier League goals.
However, a more illustrious English club is after him now, with Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho reportedly following Kalinic.
Kalinic was brought on at halftime last weekend, with Fiorentina 2-0 down against Empoli and the Croatia international scored twice in five minutes, and also hit the bar as his side rescued a draw.
That brace saw Kalinic move second in the Serie A goalscoring charts with nine, one less than Higuain.
"For me Kalinic is not a surprise, he has done well wherever he has played," said former Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti. "He is physically robust and alert, he will certainly continue to do well.
"He is showing he is an extraordinary striker. Not only does he manage to score but he also does movements that you see little of in Italy."