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Montella stress test as Napoli, Inter jostle for control

Milan (AFP) – Vincenzo Montella’s future as AC Milan coach will be in the spotlight during a double dose of Serie A action this week as leaders Napoli and Inter Milan jostle for control.

Montella, 43, showed signs of cracking under pressure as he lashed out at the use of video assistant referee in sending off captain Leonardo Bonucci in Sunday’s goalless draw against Genoa.

Bonucci will miss the midweek trip to Chievo and Saturday’s clash against his former club Juventus at the San Siro in a week where Montella’s future should be decided.

“I’m playing for my career,” fumed Montella with Milan 11th in Serie A as the club’s new Chinese owners look for payback on their 230 million euros ($270 million) investment.

“This is the pitch, not television. I’m losing patience with VAR.”

But referees chief Marcello Nicchi hit back on Monday accusing the Milan boss of nerves and not understanding VAR.

“Montella has to adapt to this new age of football, everyone is playing for their careers not just him,” Nicchi told Radio Rai. “I think a bit of nervousness is normal, but Montella knows that if Milan had turned things around, he wouldn’t be complaining.

“Everything can’t be perfect at the beginning, but now with VAR, out of 10 interventions, it might miss one.”

Leaders Napoli and Inter Milan both take on teams from Genoa as they look to keep their title push sailing smoothly.

Napoli have 25 points from nine games, two ahead of Inter Milan with champions Juventus and Lazio a further point adrift in third.

– ‘Hitting stride’ –

Inter Milan ended Napoli’s winning streak with a goalless draw in Saturday’s top of the table clash in Naples and could pull ahead provisionally when they host Sampdoria on Tuesday.

But Genoa-side Sampdoria, who have a match in hand, are tough opposition as they sit sixth after coming off a five-goal blitz of Crotone.

Napoli head to faltering Genoa, who have just six points from nine games, on Wednesday.

Juventus, meanwhile, are full of confidence of pushing for a seventh-straight title as they bounced back from a mini-slump with a 6-2 thrashing of Udinese, and next host SPAL, with Lazio travelling to Bologna.

Massimiliano Allegri hailed Sunday’s success with ten men as “a turning point in our campaign”.

“We’ll hit our stride in terms of our fitness levels in November and some of our other injured players will return,” he said.

Mario Mandzukic will miss the SPAL game through suspension but Allegri was unconcerned.

“There’s no issue, I actually wanted to rest him in our next match anyway,” he said.

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon however said he was disappointed he would not come up against former teammate Bonucci next weekend.

“It would have been nice to have seen him again on such a big night,” said the Italian international.

“It’s anything but a normal fixture but it’s happened now and I hope we can make the most of his absence.”

AS Roma, in fifth with a match in hand, look to keep their momentum as they host struggling Crotone.

Fiorentina take on Torino in Tuscany in a battle midtable.

Tailenders Benevento travel to Cagliari looking for their first points after making history by becoming the first club to fail to score a point in nine games in the Italian championship.

Fixtures (all times 1845GMT unless stated)


Inter Milan v Sampdoria


Atalanta v Verona (1630), Bologna v Lazio, Cagliari v Benevento, Chievo v AC Milan, Fiorentina v Torino, Genoa v Napoli, Juventus v SPAL, AS Roma v Crotone, Sassuolo v Udinese.

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