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Football | Italy

Walter Mazzarri © Reuters Images

Controversy haunts Serie A fixtures



Off-field controversy will again cast a shadow over the final weekend of Serie A matches before the winter break with Napoli reeling after being docked points over match-fixing and Cagliari's stadium problems threatening their existence in the top flight.

Walter Mazzari's Napoli should get their season back on track on Sunday (1400 GMT) at bottom club Siena.

Napoli now find themselves in fifth place, 10 points behind champions Juventus and fighting for a Champions League place rather than the title.

But Siena could fancy their chances against Napoli, who threw away a lead to lose against Bologna at home twice in three days, and will want to impress their new boss Giuseppe Iachini.

For Antonio Conte and league leaders Juventus, things could hardly be going any better.

Not only are they six points ahead of their nearest challengers Inter Milan, but their other serious rival was effectively ruled out of the race and they even benefited from the week's other controversy when their match at Cagliari on Friday (1945 GMT) was moved to Parma.

The only problem facing Juve is Giorgio Chiellini being ruled out for up to two months with a calf injury. However, considering only Pescara have scored fewer goals than Cagliari this season, not many would bet on them getting a result against the champions.

The real losers, however, will be Cagliari's long-suffering supporters, 15 000 of whom had bought tickets for the match at the Is Arenas stadium, as their club battles with local authorities over the safety of their stadium.

Fans of the Sardinian club again face the prospect of watching their club's home games being played on the Italian mainland, which could have a big impact on their fight against relegation.

The six teams pursuing Juventus are fighting over European places and AS Roma play AC Milan in Rome on Saturday evening (1945 GMT).

Milan had a dismal start to the season with speculation about Massimiliano Allegri's future dominating Italian media.

But they are unbeaten in their last five matches, a run that has seen them pull back from two goals down to draw at Napoli and inflict Juventus's second defeat of the season.

With 14 goals, Serie A's top scorer Stephan El Shaarawy is Milan's inspiration, but Robinho has also been exceptional since returning from injury.

Roma have a wealth of talent up front and an all-out attacking philosophy that has brought them 38 goals in 17 games, the most in the league.

Roma are two points and a place above Milan in sixth, and the match will be an indicator of which side really wants to make a run at next season's Champion's League.

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