Title-chasers Napoli are counting the cost of last week’s round of international friendlies with fears forwards Dries Mertens and Manolo Gabbiadini will miss their next two league games.
Napoli, who sit two points off leaders Fiorentina, travel to struggling Verona on Sunday looking to maintain their title push before hosting fellow hopefuls Inter in a crucial game at the San Paolo next weekend.
Coach Maurizio Sarri is expected to be without Belgian international Mertens and Italy striker Gabbiadini for both games after they hobbled off while representing their national sides. Mertens has been advised to take a week’s rest after suffering a right thigh injury while Gabbiadini is also sidelined for at least one week after hobbling off Italy’s 2-2 friendly draw with Romania on Tuesday.
Napoli, however, breathed a sigh of relief after learning Gonzalo Higuain, who with nine goals sits joint top of Serie A’s scoring charts with Sampdoria striker Eder, will return from south America injury-free. Argentina striker Higuain first shook off a foot injury while playing against Brazil on Saturday before then hobbling off against Colombia.
Higuain, however, is reported to be match fit and will spearhead the Azzurri’s attack against a Verona side that could welcome back influential striker Luca Toni following a two-month injury absence (knee) that has hit the club hard.
Verona have sunk to second-from-bottom of the pile in Italy and the return of Toni, who finished last season as joint top scorer alongside Inter’s Mauro Icardi, will give them a much-needed boost.
“I want to come back as soon as possible,” said Toni. “I’m pretty angry about our league position right now. We have to fight our way back up the table.”
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