Napoli continued their struggles on home turf with Sunday’s shock 1-0 defeat to Empoli which left the Serie A champions already well off the pace in this season’s title race.
Rudi Garcia’s team haven’t won in Naples since the end of September and were loudly booed off by fans at the Stadio Maradona after Viktor Kovalenko’s superb last-minute strike snatched the points for Empoli.
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They will be 10 points from the summit after just 12 matches if in-form Inter Milan beat Frosinone at the San Siro in Sunday’s late match.
It has been a troubling opening few months to the current campaign in which the enthusiasm of last season’s thrilling first Scudetto in over three decades has dissipated.
Garcia took over from title-winning coach Luciano Spalletti in the summer, but his position is already being questioned, and owner Aurelio De Laurentiis was visibly irritated in the stands by a poor performance against Empoli who have now escaped the relegation zone.
Napoli would have moved above AC Milan with a win but, Empoli goalkeeper Etrit Berisha was in good form, pulling off two superb early stops from Matteo Politano and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and denying Khvicha Kvaratskhelia late on, before Kovalenko’s shock winner.
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Napoli’s home record is the 14th best in the league and is in stark contrast to their performances on the road where they are unbeaten in all competitions and have won six from eight fixtures.
Atalanta can take fourth spot from Napoli with a win at Udinese on Sunday while Lazio and Roma face off in the season’s first Rome derby and Fiorentina host high-flying Bologna with both teams already looking decent bets for European football next season.