Napoli ready to end long wait for Italian title
NAPLES, Italy - Napoli can finally end a 33-year wait for the Serie A title on Sunday when they take on Salernitana with potentially one more win enough to take them over the line.
Authorities in Naples are steeling themselves for a wave of partying should the current crop of stars emulate Diego Maradona and seal a third Scudetto for Napoli, with fans ready to unleash an explosion of joy after three decades of pent-up frustration.
In order to win the league a record-breaking six matches before the end of the season, Napoli have to hope closest challengers Lazio do not to win at Inter Milan in Sunday's early kick-off.
Luciano Spalletti's side will then seal the deal if they beat Salernitana in what will be a colourful stadium named after their Argentine icon.
Whether it comes on Sunday, midweek against Udinese or the following weekend against Fiorentina, Spalletti says Napoli need to emulate icon Diego Maradona, the talisman behind their previous two titles in 1987 and 1990, and give fans the chance to let loose in southern Italy's biggest city over May Day weekend.
"It's above all about them who we should be thinking about... Let's think about them because they've had the joy of watching a group of committed players who give everything for them," added Spalletti.
"They have shown a lot for us, and have been really important in us having such an exciting end of season." The match with Salernitana was pushed back a day as a security measure due to a number of other events happening in the city, including a major comic book convention being held all weekend a stone's throw from the Stadio Maradona. The decision angered Salernitana owner Danilo Iervolino, who told the Gazzetta Dello Sport on Saturday that it "sets a very dangerous precedent".
Iervolino is livid as his team, who are not safe from relegation, have one day less to prepare for Wednesday's home match with Fiorentina.
"No-one has thought about our needs," said Iervolino.
"The dignity of one team has been trampled on in favour of another team's... I hope it never happens again." With a 17-point lead at the top there is next to no chance of Napoli not winning the league, even if it doesn't come this weekend.
As such, Naples has been raring to party for weeks, with flags, banners and cardboard cutouts of players dotted around the city that is preparing for an invasion of supporters from all over Italy.
Enthusiasm is such that some fans have even floated the idea of celebrating by setting off a small artillery's worth of flares on the summit of Mount Vesuvius to simulate an eruption of Europe's last remaining active volcano.
Opposition supporters often insult Naples and Neapolitans with offensive chants about Vesuvius "washing with fire" the city, taunts that Napoli fans have reappropriated and thrown back at their rivals.
The plan has been blasted by the Vesuvius National Park Authority, who called the idea "dangerous and not feasible" and asked local authorities to stop any intrusion on the volcano's fragile ecosystem. - AFP