Napoli lose key striker Lavezzi within spitting distance of lead

Napoli will have to overcome the loss of key striker Ezequiel Lavezzi for Monday's top-of-the-table match at Milan in which a win would draw them level with the Serie A leaders.

Lavezzi is one game into a three-match ban for spitting at the Roma defender Aleandro Rosi. The Argentine has been a mainstay of Walter Mazzarri's team this season, alongside the Uruguay forward Edinson Cavani and Marek Hamsik in attack.

Lavezzi's partnership with Cavani, in particular, has been crucial to Napoli's unexpected return to near the top of the standings. Milan lead by three points from Napoli, with Internazionale a further two points back and Lazio seven off the pace, with 12 games remaining.

"There is nothing we can do," Mazzarri said yesterday. "Lavezzi is one of our key figures and he has been taken away. To be penalised when we are at our most crucial stage of the season leaves a bitter taste and we don't have a natural replacement for Pocho [Lavezzi], but we have to live with that. Napoli honours football and we will demonstrate our growth yet again."

Napoli have been keeping pace with Milan since the start of 2011. Two weeks ago, Cavani scored twice in the 2-0 win away to Roma at Olympic Stadium. A week ago, Juan Zuniga scored in a 1-0 victory against Catania. "We overcame another test of our maturity," Mazzarri said. "I had a great response from everyone and this means I can truly count on all my men."

Milan have had a low-key week and will have had more than a week's rest since beating Chievo Verona by kickoff time. The Italy defender Gianluca Zambrotta is the latest player to return to training, although Andrea Pirlo and Massimo Ambrosini are both unfit.

"It will be a challenging match," the Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati said. "Napoli is having a great championship and its results speak for themselves. Cavani is one a number of excellent attacking players that Napoli has and all of them can cause us problems."

Internazionale, the defending champions, lost 1-0 at home to Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday. In Serie A, though, Leonardo's side have looked impressive and new signings Giampaolo Pazzini, Yuto Nagatomo and Houssine Kharja have helped the team close the gap on Milan. "It is still an open race," the midfielder Dejan Stankovic said. "It isn't over yet because we still believe in what we can do." Inter are away to Sampdoria on Sunday.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living