Milan (AFP) – Inter Milan coach Luciano Spalletti said Friday it was time to say “enough” to racism and hatred in football as his side travel to Empoli this weekend without their fans after violence and chanting overshadowed the team’s Boxing Day match against Napoli at the San Siro.
Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly was targeted by monkey noises and racist chants during the match, while a 39-year-old fan was killed when he was struck by a car during heated clashes before kick-off.
“The time has come to say enough is enough with racist and discriminatory chants,” said Inter Milan coach Spalletti.
“I wholeheartedly condemn the incidents from the other evening. It’s also important not to penalise the vast majority of fans, those who come to the stadium to bring joy, love and emotion.”
Italian Football Federation chief Gabriele Gravina confirmed that the final round of matches before a three-week winter break in Italy would go ahead despite the turmoil.
“I’ve spoken with everyone to gauge the climate and unanimously we have decided to continue,” said Gravina.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, however, said he would have been in favour of an enforced break.
“I would give a strong signal even going as far as a break in matches to allow time for fruitful reflection for those who participate,” Conte told a press conference in Rome.
“However, I will let the competent authorities decide.”
Inter have been ordered to play their next two home games behind closed doors because of the incidents involving Koulibaly.
Police in Florence have banned visiting Inter supporters from this weekend’s match against Spalletti’s former club Empoli with the away stand closed.
“The disappointment of not being able to play in front of our own fans is great. However, if it can be used to fight this bigger battle then we gladly accept it,” said Spalletti.
“Different behaviour is needed and we want to enjoy these matches in a different context.”
– Koulibaly suspended –
Napoli finished Wednesday’s game with nine men as Koulibaly and Lorenzo Insigne were both sent off late on, with Inter snatching a late 1-0 victory.
Napoli, five points clear of Inter in second place, now host Bologna without Koulibaly.
The Senegalese will serve a two-match ban for his sending off, after seeing a second yellow card for sarcastically applauding the referee.
Insigne is also suspended, while captain Marek Hamsik is expected to miss the game with a thigh injury he sustained against Inter.
Unbeaten Juventus face a tricky test in their final game of 2018 as they host in-form Sampdoria, in fifth, with the Genoa club looking for a fourth consecutive league win.
The seven-time defending champions have dropped points just twice this season, being held by Genoa at home and Atalanta in midweek.
Ronaldo will start Saturday’s game after coming off the bench to score a late equaliser as 10-man Juventus salvaged a draw in Bergamo to move nine points clear of Napoli.
But Sampdoria striker Fabio Quagliarella has scored 11 goals this season, including nine in the past eight games.
Fourth-placed Lazio host Europa League hopefuls Torino, with AC Milan, who have slipped to sixth, desperate for a win at home against struggling SPAL.
Milan’s push for a top-four finish took a hit as Gennaro Gattuso’s side were held to an uneventful 0-0 draw at struggling Frosinone.
The seven-time European champions have now failed to score in four consecutive league games for the first time since 1984.
Elsewhere, bottom club Chievo will be targeting their first top-flight win when they host Frosinone, just above them in the table.
Fixtures (all times GMT):
Juventus v Sampdoria (1130), Chievo v Frosinone, Empoli v Inter Milan, Genoa v Fiorentina, Lazio v Torino, Parma v AS Roma, Sassuolo v Atalanta, Udinese v Cagliari (all 1400), Napoli v Bologna (1700), AC Milan v SPAL (1930)
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