Maurizio Sarri warned Juventus that their days of Serie A domination were numbered as Napoli switched their focus to winning a first league title in nearly 30 years after their European exit.
“In Italy, in the last six years nobody has ever fought it out with Juventus,” said the Napoli coach after winning 2-0 in Leipzig on Thursday night but losing their Europa League last 32 tie 3-3 on away goals.
“We regret the elimination, but the positive side is being able to fight for something important in the championship, a goal which in the past six years no-one has had after the month of February.”
Juventus have dominated Serie A in recent years romping to a record six straight titles.
This season Napoli have a one-point lead on the champions with 13 games to go on their quest for a third Scudetto and first since the days of Argentine legend Diego Maradona in 1987 and 1990.
They will play Sardinian side Cagliari, who are 15th, on Monday.
Juventus will have a much busier schedule in the run into the title as they fight for silverware on three fronts.
The reigning league and Cup holders host Atalanta on Sunday before again playing the side from Bergamo in the Italian Cup semi-final, return leg next week.
There will also be the Champions League last 16, second-leg trip to Tottenham on March 7 at Wembley to fight after drawing the home leg 2-2.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side suffered during last week’s bruising derby win over Torino, with top striker Gonzalo Higuain limping off with an ankle sprain and winger Ferderico Bernardeschi picking up a knee injury.
Both are still in doubt with full-back Mattia De Sciglio out with a thigh injury but French midfielder Blaise Matuidi is set to make his return.
Inter Milan host Benevento looking to spin out of their recent slump but without star striker Mauro Icardi. In the Argentine ace’s absence Inter have slipped to fifth, outside the Champions League places.
Basement boys Benevento however have been boosted by just their third win of the season last weekend.
“We will go to Milan with humility, but with a crazy desire to get a result because for us it could represent the turning point of the season,” said Benevento coach Roberto De Zerbi.
Roma, in third, lost away 2-1 to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League midweek, and host AC Milan who have hit a rich vein of form under coach Gennaro Gattuso and are into the Europa League last 16.
AC Milan are just outside the European places for next season with Sampdoria just above them travelling to midtable Udinese.
Lazio, just a point behind Roma in fourth, travel to Sassuolo riding high after a Ciro Immobile hat-trick propelled them past Steaua Bucharest 5-1 in the Europa League.
The weekend of Serie A action kicks off with Bologna hosting Genoa, with both sides 11 points off the European places.