Napoli head coach Luciano Spalletti has said his team understands they are "playing for the happiness of a city" after an impressive 3-1 victory away to Atalanta put them level on points with Serie A leaders Milan.

A penalty from Lorenzo Insigne and a Matteo Politano free-kick saw the Naples side 2-0 up at half-time, only for Marten de Roon to halve the deficit just before the hour mark at Gewiss Stadium.

However, a well-taken goal on the counter-attack from Elif Elmas late on after neat work from Hirving Lozano was enough to secure the three points and give Napoli their third league win in a row.

The victory means Spalletti's men are on 66 points, the same as leaders Milan though having played a game more, with the Rossoneri hosting Bologna on Monday.

"We have come out of difficult situations this season, but at this point here, there is no turning back," Spalletti told DAZN after the win.

"We suffered again today, at the beginning of both halves, [but] the team began to turn and even when Atalanta responded, the team did not disunite, on the contrary, we went in search of the third goal, which shows how we have grown."

 

Napoli, who were missing star striker Victor Osimhen, have now scored eight penalties in a single Serie A campaign for the first time since they returned to the top-flight (from 2007/08).

It is their away record that has kept them in the race for the Scudetto, having now won 11 and lost just one of their 16 games on the road (D4).

However, Spalletti also acknowledged their home form, which has been less impressive, winning nine and losing four of their 15 games at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona (D2).

"There is still a long way to go, because we have lost too many points at home and we cannot let our guard down," he added.

"What these guys have understood is that they are playing for the happiness of a city."

Barcelona's rebuild under Xavi has shown positive signs, but a new striker appears to be a priority going forward.

Following Sergio Aguero's retirement in December, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang arrived during the January transfer window and quickly excelled under Xavi, but his position may yet come under threat.

Memphis Depay remains the club's top scorer this season, netting 10 times in all competitions, yet one potential signing guarantees goals.

TOP STORY – LEWANDOWSKI SETTLES ON BARCELONA MOVE

Barcelona have reportedly reached an agreement with Robert Lewandowski.

Sport claims the Poland striker wants to leave Bayern Munich for the Catalan giants, but they will have to convince Bayern to sell him.

The 33-year-old's contract expires at the end of next season and he is yet to agree to an extension in Bavaria.

Lewandowski has scored 45 goals in all competitions this term, and Barca are reportedly willing to pay as much as €60million to bring him to Camp Nou for next season.

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– Tottenham are leading the race to sign Memphis Depay, per reports in Mundo Deportivo.

– Napoli have set a price tag of €100million for striker Victor Osimhen, according to Corriere dello Sport.

– The Mirror is reporting Ainsley Maitland-Niles is expected not to be retained by Roma, on loan from Arsenal.

 Inter show continued interest in Torino's Gleison Bremer, with talks in progress with a defender also linked to Milan, per Fabrizio Romano.

Marco Verratti and Jorginho were among a group of six players to leave the Italy camp after their failure to qualify for the World Cup. 

Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne, Domenico Berardi and Gianluca Mancini also returned to their clubs ahead of schedule, with the latter two having sustained knocks. 

Italy coach Roberto Mancini is expected to ring the changes in a friendly against Turkey on Tuesday following the Azzurri's shock defeat to North Macedonia in a World Cup qualifying play-off semi-final on Thursday. 

The Euro 2020 champions' first ever home loss in World Cup qualifying meant they failed to reach successive finals for the first time in their history. 

Instead of taking on Portugal in the play-off final, Italy will depart for Konya on Monday. 

Victor Osimhen matched the Serie A feat of Mohamed Salah, Samuel Eto'o and George Weah as the striker's double dragged Napoli to a 2-1 win over Udinese.

Gerard Deulofeu's first-half strike edged Udinese ahead at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, before Osimhen came to the fore after the interval.

Not only did that keep Napoli, temporarily at least, on level terms with leaders Milan, but the two goals took him to 11 for the campaign in Serie A.

That makes Osimhen the first Nigerian to achieve double figures in two consecutive Serie A seasons, while he became just the fourth African player to achieve the feat in the Italian top flight, after Weah for Milan, Eto'o for Inter and Salah for Roma.

The 23-year-old labelled the victory as essential in the hunt for Napoli's first Scudetto since the 1989-90 season.

"The atmosphere was incredible. We had a good reaction after the first half. It was essential to win and I thank the fans for their support," he told DAZN.

"We have to believe we can win the league. There are still eight games and we have to continue like this."

Napoli will look to continue their title charge after the international break when they visit top-four chasers Atalanta.

Victor Osimhen matched the Serie A feat of Mohamed Salah, Samuel Eto'o and George Weah as the striker's double dragged Napoli to a 2-1 win over Udinese.

Gerard Deulofeu's first-half strike edged Udinese ahead at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, before Osimhen came to the fore after the interval.

Not only did that keep Napoli, temporarily at least, on level terms with leaders Milan, but the two goals took him to 11 for the campaign in Serie A.

That makes Osimhen the first Nigerian to achieve double figures in two consecutive Serie A seasons, while he became just the fourth African player to achieve the feat in the Italian top flight, after Weah for Milan, Eto'o for Inter and Salah for Roma.

The 23-year-old labelled the victory as essential in the hunt for Napoli's first Scudetto since the 1989-90 season.

"The atmosphere was incredible. We had a good reaction after the first half. It was essential to win and I thank the fans for their support," he told DAZN.

"We have to believe we can win the league. There are still eight games and we have to continue like this."

Napoli will look to continue their title charge after the international break when they visit top-four chasers Atalanta.

Manchester City's search for a permanent striker appears to be ramping up, with a deal for Erling Haaland reportedly in the works.

City have not been able to properly replace Sergio Aguero despite leading the Premier League, and Haaland looks to be their primary target.

Details and discussion of the deal already appear to be in advanced stages, and City look to be best placed to sign the Norwegian.


TOP STORY – HAALAND SET FOR MAN CITY SWITCH

According to the Daily Mail, Haaland is set to move to Manchester City at the end of season, with personal terms already discussed and the framework for the deal already green-lit by City decision makers.

Haaland's father Alf-Inge played for the club but more importantly, City appear willing to meet Borussia Dortmund's release clause of £63million (€75.1million). 

The 21-year-old's agent, Mino Raiola, would also be set to earn a significant portion of the transfer fee per reports, meaning the total outlay will reach nine figures.

Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid have shown keen interest in the Norwegian striker, but the Premier League leaders look to be in pole position.

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona are looking at Real Sociedad's Alexander Isak as an alternative in the event they don't manage to sign Haaland from Dortmund . According to El Nacional, Xavi is an admirer of the 22-year-old Swedish striker, but they would face competition from the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal .

- Milan are set to make an offer for Mamadou Coulibaly from Monaco. La Gazzetta dello Sport reports Rossoneri scout Geoffrey Moncada is particularly keen on the 17-year-old, who will be leaving Monaco at the end of the season.

- According to reports from Calciomercato, Napoli will look to begin talks with Sassuolo for talented attacker Hamed Junior Traore soon. Following the expiry of Juventus' right of first refusal clause, reports also say the Partenopei will want to move quickly.

- Real Madrid are close to confirming a contract extension for Luka Modric, per Marca reports, but are unwavering in their plans to offload Gareth Bale, Marcelo and Isco at the end of the season.

Antonio Rudiger's future at Chelsea has been the topic of plenty of speculation.

The 29-year-old centre-back has been with the Blues since 2017 when he joined on a five-year deal.

Rudiger is yet to extend his contract with Chelsea, with plenty of interest in the Germany international.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE AND MAN UTD IN FOR RUDIGER

Newcastle United are ready to compete in the race to sign Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger, claims the Telegraph.

The Germany international has drawn interest from Real Madrid while the Express reports that Manchester United are also considering a move for the defender.

Rudiger's contract with Chelsea expires at the end of this season, although he has not ruled out staying at Stamford Bridge.

 

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- The Express claims Harry Kane has informed his Tottenham team-mates that he will remain with the club should they clinch a top-four spot and Champions League football.

Arsenal may move to re-sign Serge Gnabry from Bayern Munich, who previously spent four years with the Gunners, according to Football.London. Gnabry is valued at €75million (£63m).

Arsenal, along with Leicester City, have sent scouts to track Sassuolo forward Domenico Berardi, according to Nicolo Schira. The Italians are asking for €30m for their club captain, with interest from Napoli and Milan also.

- FootMercato claims Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea are considering moves for Manchester City's Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez.

Milan coach Stefano Pioli thinks Inter remain Scudetto favourites despite seeing his Rossoneri side beat Napoli 1-0 to go top of Serie A on Sunday.

Both teams knew they could breathe new life into their respective title challenges with a win at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, but it was the visitors who left with the victory.

Olivier Giroud's instinctive finish early in the second half following Davide Calabria's wayward shot proved decisive, that goal being enough to return Milan to the summit with 60 points, two clear of Inter.

But Inter do still have a game in hand, and as such Pioli recognises the defending champions have to still be considered the team to beat.

Speaking to DAZN after the game, Pioli said: "For sure, we've not done as well against the so-called smaller teams, however, we won't have many direct clashes [with title rivals].

"But since the calendar tells us we have many of these games to come, honestly we have to do more.

"It is clear that there are difficulties for everyone, we are not a perfect team. We have to show that we have learned the lessons [against lesser sides]. Attitude and quality will be important in the next matches.

"The favourites are still Inter. Inter are a very strong team and the standings are still virtual. I'm sorry that there are games left over to be played, it would be more correct if we had all played the same number of games at this point in the championship.

"We have to concentrate on getting a lot of points."

Giroud once again proved his value to Milan, with the Frenchman scoring his eighth Serie A goal despite starting just 12 games.

There were many who questioned his signing when Milan spent just €1million in acquiring him from Chelsea at the start of the season, but for Pioli there was never any doubt what Giroud could add.

"My idea and the club's idea was to include players of experience, who had already won something, who know what it means to work to win," Pioli added.

"There is always a great need for people with stature. A video call was enough for us to understand what a professional he was.

"The more players with charisma and personality you have – especially for us who have a very young team – the better."

Olivier Giroud provided the decisive touch as Milan claimed a potentially vital victory in the Serie A title race, beating fellow Scudetto hopefuls Napoli 1-0 at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

Milan's record in Naples is dreadful, having gone into Sunday's clash with one win in their most recent 14 visits, but the rare success here put them back to the top of the table.

Both teams had penalty shouts controversially turned down inside the opening 15 minutes, though otherwise there were few major flashpoints in an even first half.

Proceedings opened up following Giroud's 49th-minute poacher's effort, yet Milan held firm to leave with a valuable win that puts them three points clear of Napoli and two ahead of Inter.

A ferocious start saw Amir Rrahmani blaze over from inside the box for the hosts and Milan's Ismael Bennacer have a penalty claim ignored after being nudged over by Kalidou Koulibaly inside the first five minutes.

Napoli then thought they were unfairly denied a spot-kick soon after, with Victor Osimhen seemingly tripped from behind by Fikayo Tomori in the box.

A closely contested first half finished goalless and the breakthrough arrived soon after the restart, Giroud instinctively turning in Davide Calabria's wayward shot.

Napoli substitute Adam Ounas almost levelled with 15 minutes to go when his curling left-footed effort went agonisingly wide.

Osimhen tested Mike Maignan from a tight angle following a surging run, and that proved to be the final chance for the hosts, who were fortunate not to concede again in stoppage time when Alexis Saelemaekers wasted a glorious opportunity.

Manchester United still appear keen to sign Ousmane Dembele if the winger leaves Barcelona at the end of the season.

Dembele was told he could leave Barca in January after refusing to sign a new contract.

However, no clubs came in for the former Borussia Dortmund attacker, who will instead see out the remaining months of his deal at Camp Nou and looks set to leave on a free.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED ARE DEMBELE'S ONLY SUITORS

According to Spanish newspaper Sport, Dembele's options for when he leaves Barca are limited. In fact, the report claims that United are now the only team interested in the France international.

Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea were among the clubs reported to hold an interest in the 24-year-old previously.

However, according to Sport's report, United are in a queue of one as it stands.

ROUND-UP

- Tottenham are now the favourites to sign Nottingham Forest's Middlesbrough loanee Djed Spence, ahead of Arsenal and Bayern Munich, Goal reports.

- Journalist Raffaele Auriemma told TeleClubItalia that Fabian Ruiz is likely to leave Napoli at the end of the season and that Arsenal have made a proposal.

- AS, meanwhile, believes that Barcelona could look to sign left-back Alex Moreno from Real Betis ahead of next season.

- Another defender who looks set to join Barcelona is Andreas Christensen. Fabrizio Romano reports that a deal is close for the centre-back to join on a free from Chelsea.

- Fichajes reports that Real Madrid could become involved in a three-way tussle with Barca and Arsenal for Lille forward Jonathan David.

Victor Osimhen has netted 11 goals in all competitions, prompting admiration from some top clubs.

The Napoli striker is valued at around €80million by the Serie A leaders.

Manchester United are understood to be interested in Osimhen.

TOP STORY – REAL TO RIVAL MAN UTD FOR OSIMHEN

The race for Napoli forward Osimhen is heating up with Real Madrid joining United in pursuit of his signature, according to Calciomercato.

Osimhen's Napoli contract does not expire until 2025 but both clubs are ready to flex their muscles and move for him in the off-season transfer window.

The 23-year-old forward's stock has risen dramatically since Napoli signed him for €70m from Lille in 2020.

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- Inter are lining up a move for Borussia Monchengladbach's Marcus Thuram as they prepare for Lautaro Martinez to be prized away amid interest from Manchester City, claims The Sun.

- Nicolo Schira claims that Milan have agreed personal terms with Lille defender and Newcastle United target Sven Botman, who has been lured by a five-year deal.

- Barcelona are set to join the race for Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves, who has interest from Arsenal and Manchester United, reports the Mail.

- The Express claims that Aston Villa are interested in manager Steven Gerrard's ex-Liverpool team-mate Luis Suarez along with Milan's Franck Kessie .

- Teenage England international Jude Bellingham has opted to remain with Borussia Dortmund for one more season, claims Bild.

- Kicker claims that Roma have joined the pursuit for Stuttgart's Sasa Kalajdzic along with Tottenham, West Ham, Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig .

- West Ham are interested in Bristol City striker Antoine Semenyo, according to The Mirror, while Celtic are also tracking him.

Kylian Mbappe is widely expected to join Real Madrid at the end of this season.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward is out of contract and has not renewed with the French giants.

Madrid have long admired Mbappe and attempted an audacious bid to sign him in August.

TOP STORY – PSG STEP UP MBAPPE RENEWAL BID

Paris Saint-Germain are ramping up their efforts to convince Mbappe to renew with the club, reports Marca.

Mbappe has previously hinted he will join Madrid at the end of this season when his PSG contract expires.

PSG are pulling out all the stops to persuade Mbappe, who has been with the club since 2017.

 

ROUND-UP

- MLS club LA Galaxy have enquired about PSG defender Sergio Ramos according to Footmercato. Ramos has made five appearances for PSG since his off-season move and may be available on a free transfer.

- Manchester United are not willing to match Napoli's eye-watering £100m price tag for Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen reports the Daily Star.

- Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Juventus are hopeful that they can retain Spanish forward Alvaro Morata, who is on loan from Atletico Madrid.

- Juventus are also in front in the race to sign Roma winger Nicolo Zaniolo, who is yet to recommit to the Giallorossi, claims Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Fulham want to sign ex-Manchester City and Liverpool forward Mario Balotelli if they win promotion back to the Premier League, claims Turkish outfit Star. Balotelli currently plays his football in Turkey with Adana Demirspor, with good form prompting an Italy recall.

Luciano Spalletti was delighted to have quietened Napoli's critics after Fabian Ruiz's 94th-minute strike saw off Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico and propelled the visitors to the Serie A summit.

After Lorenzo Insigne had opened the scoring, Pedro's superb late volley looked to have denied Napoli a crucial victory, only for Fabian to curl in a brilliant last-gasp winner to put Spalletti's men ahead in an enthralling title race.

Napoli's return of 18 points from their eight league matches in 2022 is the best in Serie A, as they bid for a first Scudetto since the Diego Maradona era, while the late goal condemned Lazio to just their second home defeat of the league campaign.

Spalletti, who joined in with his players' wild celebrations after the goal, said after the contest Napoli deserved the victory, but he seemed more concerned with quietening those who have criticised his men.

"I think overall the team deserved the victory," he told DAZN.

"I want to underline that everyone keeps moaning that this team doesn't have character, it's soft, it's sluggish; I want to hear them say that now.

"This team definitely has character. We lost to Barcelona [4-2 in Naples] after getting a result at Camp Nou, it was my fault because I told them to take that approach.

"I see an ugly atmosphere around this team, people trying to say we lack character. I want to see them say that now.

"We got knocked down, we got straight back on our feet again and poured forward to find the winner. I don’t think it's a bad thing to say this was a deserved victory." 

Fabian has now scored the most goals from outside the box in this Serie A this season, with all six of his strikes coming from range. Moreover, the midfielder has now netted as many goals this term as he did in the 2019-20 and the 2020-21 campaigns combined.

Romelu Lukaku has not had the desired impact since his move from Inter to Chelsea in August.

The Belgium international has scored 10 goals in all competitions but appears unsettled.

As a result, Lukaku has been linked with a move away from the European champions.

TOP STORY - LUKAKU KEEN FOR INTER RETURN

Chelsea forward Lukaku is open to the idea of taking a pay cut to facilitate a proposed move back to Inter , according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

Lukaku dropped a bombshell in December, revealing his regret at leaving Inter for Chelsea and has come under fire recently after managing only seven touches in a Premier League game.

The report claims that the Belgian forward has contacted the Italian champions to persuade them to bid for him, although they may not be able to afford a deal.

ROUND-UP

- Eden Hazard is interested in a return to Chelsea after an unhappy time with Real Madrid, claims Fichajes. The Belgian made a €100 million (£84m) move to Madrid in 2019 but has underwhelmed, with the Blues open to a short-term deal.

- SPORT claims that Arsenal will make a fresh approach to sign Real Sociedad's Swedish forward Alexander Isak . The striker has an €80m (£67m) release clause in his contract and has been linked with Barcelona .

- Manchester United have tabled an offer for Borussia Dortmund's Manuel Akanji ,   reports BILD. The Red Devils will offer the defender, who is contracted until 2023, a four-year deal worth €15m (£13m) per season.

- Nicolo Schira claims that Madrid are angling to sign Fabian Ruiz after contract extension talks with Napoli stalled. The 25-year-old is understood to want to return to Spain.

- Fabrizio Romano reports that Barcelona will back head coach Xavi in the off-season as they push on with plans to lure Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta .

- Newcastle United are considering an off-season move for Lyon defender Jason Denayer , claims The Mirror. Denayer's contract expires in June.

Xavi believes Barcelona produced "the most complete performance of our season" during the second leg of their Europa League knockout round play-off victory over Napoli.

The Blaugrana stormed through to the last 16 of the competition after completing a commanding 5-3 aggregate victory thanks to a 4-2 triumph at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Thursday.

First-half goals from Jordi Alba, Frenkie De Jong and Gerard Pique put the visitors in control in Naples, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang settled the tie before the hour mark.

Barca registered 16 shots to their opponents' seven – with their four goals coming from six on target – while they enjoyed 56 per cent of possession and won 54.8 per cent of the duels throughout the contest.

And Xavi was delighted as his side booked their place in Friday's last-16 draw.

"Perhaps, this was the most complete performance of our season," the head coach said. "We wanted to dominate and we did. 

"I'm happy about the effort we put in and with the football we played. The result is fair. 

"I am very happy for the players and this is the way forward.  We are on the right road.

"We pressed well, high up, whenever we lost the ball – just like we did at home. 

"Napoli pressed high up and spaces were available in behind them. From defending a corner, we made a textbook counter-attack. We took advantage of our fast players. 

"We understood how to create and use a 'free man'. I'm very happy for the team."

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