Stefano Pioli is using the pain of derby defeat as fresh inspiration as he attempts to steer AC Milan to success this season.

The Rossoneri were trounced 5-1 by Inter Milan a fortnight ago and then drew 0-0 with Newcastle in their Champions League opener.

They have since beaten Verona and Cagliari to go level on points with Inter at the top of the Serie A table and manager Pioli, who found himself under intense pressure in the wake of a difficult week, is keen to draw a line under the derby day disappointment ahead of Saturday’s home clash with Lazio.


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He told a press conference: “We are doing well, we want to find the right continuity to do well in the league and in the Champions League. We need to focus only on tomorrow.


“We have always lived with balance between negative and positive moments. The derby was not the end of our journey, but a new beginning to start from.

“Now we are not perfect, we are not flawless, but we can put our best performance on the field tomorrow.”

Pioli will hope to have key players back for the weekend, with goalkeeper Mike Maignan having sat out Wednesday’s 3-1 win at Cagliari through injury, while strikers Olivier Giroud and Rafael Leao started on the bench with the former not leaving it.

However, the Milan boss was coy about his team selection when asked about the depth of his squad.


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Pioli said: “I am convinced of the quality of my players, but we have to keep moving forward.

“After the break, a new season started. To stay at the top, we need to be strong in every aspect. Now we only think about tomorrow.”

Lazio will arrive at the San Siro after clinching just their second win of the campaign in midweek, when they beat Torino 2-0 at the Stadio Olimpico.

Pioli will hope a third successive victory will ease the tide of criticism which has come his way, although he remains philosophical.

He said: “It’s useless to talk about the criticisms. We are Milan, we want to win and be competitive. The club is following a wonderful path, already capable of winning and to put the accounts right. Everyone is working very well.

“We are Milan, the praise and criticism are high. It’s part of our job.”

Victor Osimhen put his social media storm with Napoli to one side to help his club return to winning ways with a 4-1 victory over Udinese.

Last season’s Scudetto winners entered this fixture after a three-match winless run in Serie A, which had turned up the heat on new boss Rudi Garcia.

Osimhen’s missed penalty in last weekend’s stalemate at Bologna was followed by a bizarre post on Napoli’s official TikTok account.

It appeared to mock the Nigeria international but, while the forward threatened to take legal action, Osimhen brushed off the scrutiny to end his four-game goal drought with a smart finish in the 39th minute in Naples to fire the hosts up to seventh in the table.

After the spot-kick drama of Sunday, it took Napoli only a quarter of an hour to be awarded another penalty when Khvicha Kvaratskhelia was fouled inside the area.

VAR was called and eventually the penalty was awarded, but instead of Osimhen it was Piotr Zielinski who took responsibility and he rolled into the bottom corner after 19 minutes to make it 1-0 at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

Garcia’s out-of-form side were firmly in the ascendancy now with Kvaratskhelia, Osimhen and Mario Rui forcing saves from Marco Silvestri in the Udinese goal.


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Silvestri had no answer to Osimhen in the 39th minute when Matteo Politano slipped through last season’s leading marksman and Napoli’s number nine drilled into the net for his fourth goal this season.

Osimhen was initially reluctant to celebrate but after some anxious glances towards the assistant referee, no offside flag was raised and he embraced his team-mates while feeling the support of a raucous home crowd.

Further applause followed in the 63rd minute when Osimhen was replaced by Giovanni Simeone, who would find the net but not before Kvaratskhelia.

Georgian attacker Kvaratskhelia had endured a difficult start to the season and would have been grateful for the gift from away defender Jaka Bijol.

A poor touch by Bijol allowed Kvaratskhelia to steal in and win possession before he beat Silvestri to the loose ball and was able to open his account for the season from close range in the 74th minute.

Lazar Samardzic reduced the deficit in the 80th minute but, seconds later, Kvaratskhelia turned provider again when his excellent run and cross found Simeone, who headed low into the net to wrap up the scoring on a much-needed positive night for the champions.

Domenico Berardi fired a stunning winner as Sassuolo hit back to halt Inter Milan’s 100 per cent start to the Serie A season with a 2-1 win at San Siro.

Italy forward Berardi crashed home a swerving shot from outside the penalty area after Nedim Bajrami’s second-half equaliser had cancelled out Denzel Dumfries’ opener for Inter.

Simone Inzaghi’s side had won all of their opening five league matches to top the table, but Sassuolo produced a second upset in the space of four days after beating Juventus 4-2 at home on Saturday.

Sassuolo made an encouraging start, enjoying an equal share of possession as neither side created a clear scoring chance in the first 30 minutes.

Inter then sparked into life when Nicolo Barella sent Dumfries sprinting down the right, with the latter’s excellent cross headed just over by Marcus Thuram.

Thuram then missed when well placed from another ball in from Dumfries before Jeremy Toljan provided Sassuolo’s best first-half chance as his fierce angled effort was well saved by Inter goalkeeper Yann Sommer.

Sommer was alert again to keep out Bajrami’s low shot before Inter broke the deadlock in first-half stoppage time.

Dumfries cut inside on the right edge of the penalty area and arrowed a low finish into the bottom corner for his second goal of the season.

Martin Erlic headed a golden chance wide for Sassuolo from Berardi’s brilliant cross, but the visitors drew level in the 54th minute.

Berardi was again the provider as his slide-rule pass on the right side of the area was hammered home by Bajrami, with Sommer furious he had allowed the ball to beat him at the near post.

It got worse for Inter soon after. Berardi was allowed to cut inside from the right on to his left foot and he unleashed a brilliant, dipping shot that nestled inside Sommer’s far post.

Inter boss Inzaghi sent on substitutes Carlos Augusto, Stefan de Vrij and Davide Frattesi soon after and the latter forced visiting goalkeeper Andrea Consigli into a low save.

Sassuolo dealt comfortably with Inter’s bid to get back on terms and Armand Lauriente sliced his chance to extend the visitors’ lead wide in the 85th minute.

Lauriente then saw a better effort that would have settled it saved by Sommer before Francesco Acerbi fired straight at Consigli and Lautaro Martinez shot narrowly wide in stoppage time.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s superb strike helped AC Milan to a 3-1 Serie A victory at struggling Cagliari.

Zito Luvumbo gave Claudio Ranieri’s winless side a shock lead but Noah Okafor and Fikayo Tomori turned things around before Loftus-Cheek’s first Milan goal secured the win.

Milan have now won back-to-back league games since their derby drubbing by city rivals Inter – their only dropped points of the season so far – while Cagliari remain in the bottom three with just two points from their opening six matches.

Stefano Pioli’s side started on the front foot against their out-of-form hosts, Tijjani Reijnders drifting an early opportunity wide before Loftus-Cheek wasted a chance due to a heavy first touch inside the area.

Much of the visitors’ threat was coming from Samuel Chukwueze down the right, with the Nigerian’s cross-shot floating wide.

The first big chance fell to striker Okafor, but his tame shot from 12 yards was easily held by Boris Radunovic.

Cagliari caught Milan out from a throw-in to score just their second goal of the season in the 29th minute, with Luvumbo – who got their first – smashing a left-footed strike into the roof of the net.

Ibrahim Sulemana shot straight at Marco Sportiello from distance as Cagliari pushed for another but Milan went straight down the other end to level after 40 minutes.

Christian Pulisic jinked past the full-back to cross low into the area and Radunovic spilled the ball into the path of Okafor, who finished from six yards.

Milan seized the initiative as Chukwueze fired over before Theo Hernandez’s shot required a fingertip save by Radunovic.

And the Rossoneri were ahead on the stroke of half-time as Reijnders’ cross along the six-yard line was bundled in by Tomori.

Cagliari threatened in the opening 10 minutes of the second half as Luvumbo was denied by a last-ditch block and Gaetano Oristanio shot over from the edge of the box.

Loftus-Cheek’s goal came on the hour mark as he arrowed a superb strike from 25 yards low into the bottom corner.

The hosts carried little threat as Milan controlled the game, but Luvumbo capitalised on a slip from Tomori to create their best chance to reduce the arrears three minutes from time as Oristanio’s strike was beaten away by Sportiello.

Milan’s next game is at home to Lazio on Saturday while Cagliari face a trip to Fiorentina on Monday.

Juventus climbed to second in Serie A with a hard-fought 1-0 home victory over Lecce.

Arkadiusz Milik’s 57th-minute goal enabled Juve, surprisingly beaten 4-2 by Sassuolo last time out, to return to winning ways and end Lecce’s unbeaten start to the season.

However, Massimiliano Allegri’s men were made to work hard for the win by the visitors, who went into the contest one place and one point above their opponents in the table.

The hosts had the first-half chances, although only one was a significant opening.

After Enrico Chiesa dragged a low right-foot shot wide from 20 yards in the 13th minute, Milik saw a long-range effort easily claimed by Lecce goalkeeper Wladimiro Falcone eight minutes later.

The best opportunity of the opening half came in the 27th minute when Danilo found Chiesa but the Italy international’s left-foot shot from 10 yards went just wide of the far post.

Lecce continued to frustrate the hosts and – an Adrien Rabiot header from Nicolo Fagioli’s free-kick which was punched away by Falcone in the 41st minute apart – the hosts rarely threatened.

Pontus Almqvist tested the home defence with a couple of of strong runs early in the second half which came to nothing, before the home defence were put under pressure by Remi Oudin’s free-kick and Gabriel Strefezza’s corner.

Lecce boss Roberto D’Aversa was given a yellow card in the 56th minute for protesting about the award of a Juventus corner and a minute later the hosts made the decisive breakthrough.

Poland international striker Milik tapped home from close range after Rabiot had headed Weston McKennie’s cross goalwards. The effort was allowed to stand following a VAR check for offside.

Lecce, still seeking a first away success of the season following draws at Fiorentina and Monza, saw plenty of the ball in the closing quarter of the contest.

However, despite a glut of changes from both teams, 10 in the final 27 minutes of the contest, the visitors were unable to put significant pressure on the Juventus defence.

The visitors’ slim chances of an equaliser were not helped when Mohamed Kaba, a 70th-minute replacement, was harshly given a second yellow card for simulation in the third minute of added time.

The final whistle came four minutes later, signalling an end to Lecce’s five-match unbeaten record – the first time they had achieved such a feat in Serie A.

For Juve, a second win in three home matches moves them above their opponents and AC Milan, to within two points of pacesetters Inter.

Inter Milan head coach Simone Inzaghi thanked his stalwarts for embracing the slew of new recruits at San Siro as the Nerazzurri blaze a trail at the top of Serie A.

There was some concern that the formula which saw Inter go all the way to an unexpected Champions League final and claim a creditable third place in the league might be addled by the transfer overhaul that took place over the summer.

Although European stars including Benjamin Pavard and Marcus Thuram were thrown into the mix, many clubs have found it is not always easy to create a winning team in the short term based solely on the quality of talent recruited.

Inzaghi told a press conference: “Our squad has undergone a lot of changes, but the players who were already here have been important. They’ve helped the newcomers – however experienced they are – understand how to adapt to the Inter world.

“I see real willingness: everyone has been working excellently and in a really determined fashion since July.”

Inter host Sassuolo on Wednesday having thumped city rivals AC Milan 5-1, drawn away at Real Sociedad and squeezed past Empoli 1-0 on Sunday, with a trip to Salernitana on the schedule for the upcoming weekend.

“It’ll be our fourth match in 10 days, with many players having also been away on international duty and done plenty of travelling,” Inzaghi added.

“However, I’m lucky enough to coach a competitive squad. We still need to train this afternoon and then I’ll make my choices.”

On the threat posed by Sassuolo, the former Lazio striker said: “They come into this game having beaten Juventus thanks to a really good display and they have a excellent coach who has his team really well organised.

“We need to be determined as we look to produce a big performance.”

His opposite number in the Neroverdi dugout, Alessio Dionisi, led his side to a 4-2 triumph over Juve last time out and told reporters: “The victory has given us awareness, and we obtained a great result against a better team.

“We know what we did on Sunday will not be enough against Inter because right now they are superior. They are superior to everyone.

“We must try to be the best possible version of Sassuolo, we made it on Saturday and we must do the same tomorrow against a team that seems unplayable.

“We’ll need courage and personality.”

Napoli boss Rudi Garcia did not carry out his pre-match press conference duties on Tuesday as the pressure continued to grow on his position following another fractious weekend in Serie A.

The Partenopei welcome Udinese to the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona with criticism mounting over their faltering start to the defence of the title they won last season and frustration within the camp threatening to boil over.

They are without a win in three league games after Sunday’s goalless draw at Bologna, where striker Victor Osimhen made no secret of his displeasure at Garcia’s decision to substitute him late on after seeing him miss a penalty.

After the match, Garcia told reporters: “Even the greatest players in the history of football miss penalties. As for when he went off, we talked about that, what I say to my players remains in the locker room.”

Reports from Italy – where it has been claimed Garcia has four matches in which to save his job – have suggested Osimhen has since apologised to the manager in front of his team-mates, but with Khvicha Kvaratskhelia having been similarly unimpressed with his withdrawal during the 2-2 draw at Genoa eight days earlier, the optics are far from good.

The champions are already seven points adrift of leaders Inter Milan – who have a 100 per cent record – after five games, although Udinese boss Andrea Sottil had dismissed talk of a crisis.

Sottil told a press conference: “The newspapers say that Napoli are in crisis, but I absolutely don’t think so.

“It’s not my priority to understand if their locker room is working, I’m interested in creating a strategy for the match by working on my players.”

Napoli will have high hopes of a return to winning ways against a side who have drawn three, but won none of their league fixtures to date and currently lie inside the bottom three.

However under-pressure Garcia, who replaced Scudetto-winning boss Luciano Spalletti this summer, will be without defender Juan Jesus, who has been ruled out for several weeks with a grade-one hamstring injury.

Cagliari coach Claudio Ranieri has called for his side to be calm when they take on AC Milan looking to kickstart their Serie A campaign.

Defeat at Atalanta on Sunday was a third in five league games for Ranieri’s side, who sit second bottom of the table.

Cagliari, promoted last season, have scored just one goal in September and have only two points on the board.

Ranieri, though, is confident results will follow if his side can produce the right mindset.

“The boys are working well, we must move forward with confidence, without fear of making mistakes and doing what we prepare,” Ranieri told reporters.

“We expected a tough start, the schedule is clear, we have two points and it could be more but also less, now on to Milan who are very strong and want to become champions of Italy again.

“It will be a good battle, we need some optimism also from the last matches, that goal, the victory that can unblock you and give you more calmness.”

Milan coach Stefano Pioli did not give a press conference ahead of the trip to the Unipol Domus.

Pioli, though, had hinted he would probably make changes on Wednesday night as he aims to keep his squad fresh to build on a 1-0 win over Verona after a goalless draw in their opening Champions League game followed a heavy defeat to derby rivals Inter.

The Rossoneri are without midfielder Rade Krunic for the first time this season.

The Bosnian had been an ever present before a muscle problem forced him off during the second half against Verona.

Yacine Adli and Tijjani Reijnders are potential replacements to come into the side as cover.

Massimiliano Allegri has called on his “angry” Juventus squad to return to winning ways when they host high-flying Lecce.

Juventus missed the chance to go top of Serie A on Saturday after they slumped to a surprise 4-2 defeat at Sassuolo.

The Bianconeri had claimed 10 points from an unbeaten start, but came unstuck at the Mapei Stadium as Sassuolo battled to a second league win.

“Tomorrow we have to get back to winning ways to immediately move on from the bad loss to Sassuolo,” said Allegri.

“The team are angry and sorry for what happened, but at the same time they’re motivated. There’s a real desire to get back on the pitch as soon as possible.

“We had a bad night, we made mistakes that allowed our opponents to win the game, but we didn’t play badly.

“We didn’t defend well, and individual mistakes cost us. I hope the home support will give us that extra boost against Lecce. We need to have the right attitude, be proactive and, above all, positive. It will be so important to get three points.”

Third-placed Lecce will head to the Allianz Stadium unbeaten from their opening five league fixtures following three wins and two draws.

They sit one point ahead of Juventus, and four back from leaders Inter Milan, who have enjoyed a perfect start to the season.

“Lecce are a solid team, and they’re excellently coached by Roberto D’Aversa,” added Allegri.

“They’re a technical side and it’s not a coincidence that they’re still unbeaten. (Director of football) Pantaleo Corvino has put together a very competitive squad, and even last year too. It will be a good game.”

Victor Osimhen missed a penalty as Napoli drew 0-0 at Bologna to continue the early stutters in their Serie A title defence under new boss Rudi Garcia.

Osimhen, who earlier had a shot touched on to the post by Lukasz Skorupski, hit his spot-kick wide in the 72nd minute as the champions failed to win for a third successive league match.

The result, which follows a 2-1 loss to Lazio and 2-2 draw at Genoa, leaves Napoli seventh in the table, seven points behind leaders Inter Milan.

The opening stages of the clash at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara saw Osimhen hit a fifth-minute effort that came back off the far post via Skorupski’s glove, then head wide five minutes later.

Further Napoli efforts came with Piotr Zielinski shooting off-target and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s low drive being held by Skorupski, before Giacomo Raspadori bent an attempt just over the bar in first-half stoppage time.

After Osimhen was denied by Skorupski again in the 63rd minute, the visitors were awarded a penalty when Kvaratskhelia’s cross came off Osimhen and the ball struck Bologna substitute Riccardo Calafiori.

The verdict was handball and Osimhen stepped up, but while Skorupski went the wrong way, the Nigeria international could not get his effort from 12 yards on target.

A rare attack from Bologna then saw Joshua Zirkzee’s firm strike bring a save out of Alex Meret in the 75th minute.

Bologna appealed for a penalty of their own in added time when Alexis Saelemaekers fired the ball at Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, but it was not given.

Napoli – who won 2-1 at Braga in the Champions League last week – will attempt to get back to winning ways in the league when they host Udinese on Wednesday.

Inter Milan made it five wins from their opening five Serie A games with a 1-0 win at Empoli.

Federico Dimarco’s superb strike just after half-time was enough for Simone Inzaghi’s side and while Empoli had chances to equalise, Inter held on to take the points.

The leaders enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the opening stages and had a couple of half-chances through Matteo Darmian and Davide Frattesi, but Empoli goalkeeper Etrit Berisha dealt with both.

The visitors thought they had opened the scoring when Hakan Çalhanoglu’s short corner was whipped in to Marcus Thuram and he nudged the ball home from close range, only for the linesman to rule it out for offside.

Inter upped the tempo in search of an opener after the break and the first chance fell the way of Dimarco, whose powerful drive was smartly saved by Berisha.

The visitors broke the deadlock in sensational style shortly afterwards. A corner was headed out to Dimarco and his first-time effort from 20 yards flew into the top corner.

Inzaghi’s side went in search of a second to kill the game and almost got one when Thuram found himself with space inside the area but his effort curled marginally wide of the target.

Empoli were looking to avoid a fifth straight loss and an opportunity presented itself from a free-kick just outside the area.

Filippo Ranocchia’s curling effort was on target but goalkeeper Yann Sommer was alert to pull off a superb save having not had much to do previously.

The hosts started to cause last year’s Champions League finalists some issues and almost levelled a couple of minutes later. Stiven Shpendi set up Tommaso Baldanzi but his low drilled strike was blocked well by the Inter defence.

Chances started to fall the way of both sides and Thuram was close to making it two but his curling strike went wide.

Baldanzi was Empoli’s biggest threat and made a darting run off the ball to accomodate Jacopo Fazzini’s pass, but once again the danger was snuffed out by the Inter defence.

Defeat means Empoli became the first team in Serie A history to lose five consecutive games without scoring a goal.

Juventus missed the chance to go top of Serie A after they slumped to a 4-2 defeat at Sassuolo.

The Bianconeri had claimed 10 points from an unbeaten start, but came unstuck at the Mapei Stadium as Sassuolo battled to a second league win.

After Juve midfielder Adrien Rabiot had fired an early shot wide, Sassuolo took the lead in the 12th minute when Armand Lauriente’s dipping shot squirmed past Juve keeper Wojciech Szczesny.

The visitors, though, hit back to level within 10 minutes.

Federico Chiesa sent over a deep cross from the left towards the far post where Weston McKennie was sliding in and Sassuolo defender Matias Vina got the final touch as the ball dropped into the net.

Manuel Locatelli drilled a low shot just wide before at the other end, Szczesny made amends for his early error with a fine one-handed save from Ruan Tressoldi’s downward header.

The Polish keeper, though, could do little to prevent Domenico Berardi from putting Sassuolo back in front five minutes before half-time.

Matheus Henrique rolled the ball across the edge of the penalty area and Berardi curled a fine left-foot strike into the corner to mark his 300th Serie A appearance with a fine goal.

There were penalty appeals from the visitors when Federico Gatti’s cross struck Ruan Tressoldi on the arm, but the referee’s decision not to award a spot-kick was backed up following a VAR review.

Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri made two changes for the start of the second half as Nicolo Fagioli and Samuel Iling-Junior replaced Fabio Miretti and Filip Kostic.

England Under-21 international Iling-Junior looked to inject fresh life into the Juve attack, darting down the left before a deep cross dropped just past the far post.

Sassuolo remained a threat on the counter, and Berardi slid Lauriente into the penalty area, but his wild shot flew over.

At the other end, Dusan Vlahovic scuffed just wide of the far post before Juve eventually equalised again with 12 minutes left.

Iling-Junior flicked down a deep cross at the back post and Fagioli cushioned it into the path of Chiesa, whose deflected strike flew in.

However, Sassuolo were soon back in front in the 82nd minute. Lauriente’s fierce drive was punched out by Szczesny, and Andrea Pinamonti nodded in the rebound.

Sassuolo keeper Alessio Cragno kept out Chiesa’s angled shot at the near post before substitute Gregoire Defrel almost scored another for the hosts on the break when his effort cannoned back off the crossbar.

The fourth goal did arrive in bizarre fashion during stoppage time when Gatti, under pressure from Henrique, knocked the ball back into an empty net after receiving a quick free-kick from Szczesny, who was left stranded out near the corner flag.

AC Milan bounced back from their derby debacle as Rafael Leao’s early goal secured a 1-0 win at home to Verona.

Seven days after their 5-1 humbling by city rivals Inter, Milan ground out a victory at San Siro which owed more to hard work than any real quality.

Captain-for-the day Leao struck after only eight minutes, scoring for the third league game running, as the hosts made it four wins from five at the start of the Serie A season.

Kick-off was delayed by 25 minutes following heavy rain, but Stefano Pioli’s men were quick out of the blocks when the action got under way.

Christian Pulisic, one of six changes from the team which drew 0-0 with Newcastle in the Champions League in midweek, won the ball on halfway and Olivier Giroud stabbed it forward for Leao to run on to.

The Portugal international was in acres of space between two exposed defenders and had time to power into the area, steady himself and slide a low finish into the far corner.

Milan struggled to get into their rhythm despite that fast start and failed to create anything more of note in the first half.

But Verona, who won their opening two games of the season, have never won a Serie A match against Milan at San Siro and, despite the odd sight of goal, did not look likely to end that run this time.

Milan goalkeeper Marco Sportiello, playing in place of the injured Mike Maignan, did well to keep out a Michael Folorunsho header after the on-loan midfielder had laid the ball off to Filippo Terracciano and then got on the end of his team-mate’s cross.

Sportiello saved comfortably from a Federico Bonazzoli volley at the start of the second half, while at the other end substitute Ruben Loftus-Cheek went down in the area as he chased a through-ball, but play was waved on.

Pulisic then turned his man on the edge of the area and got a shot away, but Lorenzo Montipo in the Verona goal was equal to it.

Montipo kept his side in it again in the closing minutes, diving to his right to deny Yunus Musah after the United States international had been sent clear by Tijjani Reijnders.

The visitors did not threaten an unlikely equaliser, however, as Milan saw out the victory in relative comfort.

Rudi Garcia has attempted to brush off any criticism of Napoli’s slow start to their Serie A title defence.

The champions opened their campaign with two victories but were then poor in a home defeat by Lazio before struggling to force a draw at promoted Genoa, with the sequence of results leaving them sixth in the fledgling table.

A 2-1 midweek Champions League triumph at Braga has done little to sway the detractors of Garcia’s system – which is traditionally attack-focused but has so far failed to excite fans at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona who watched a team led by Luciano Spalletti swashbuckle their way to success in 2022-23.

Garcia told a press conference before Sunday’s trip to Bologna: “We are an attacking team – we have always scored goals and we could have scored more, for example against Braga. Sometimes you need things to go a few millimetres the other way.

“We’ve conceded five goals in the league, which is too many, but we’ve only conceded eight shots, which means we are not out of position or conceding too many, but we certainly need to be more effective.”

On the Lazio loss, the Frenchman added: “If we’d played better in the second half we would have taken some points so now we have to make up for the points lost when we’re away from home, in Bologna, where we are going to win.

“They’re a good team. I admired Thiago Motta as a player and I’m happy he’s also doing well as a coach. We are 100 per cent focused on tomorrow’s match.”

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia was the star turn of the Partenopei surge to Scudetto glory last term, with his 12 goals and 13 assists helping to fire Napoli to their first title since 1990.

However he has failed to score at all since March 19 and Garcia has so far struggled to find a position in which the 22-year-old Georgia international can recapture that scintillating form.

He lasted barely an hour at Braga and Bologna will hope his sense of frustration is not too strong when he arrives at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara.

The Rossoblu have also put together an eclectic set of results so far this season, following up their first win – against Cagliari – with a low-key draw against Hellas Verona on Monday night.

Boss Motta will not let his players become overwhelmed by the prospect of facing the reigning champions in their next match, telling La Gazzetto dello Sport: “We continue to work hard.

“We think about the next training session and game with the aim of always improving.

“We know we are facing the champions next. I watching them play well in the Champions League, they had many scoring opportunities, they won and gained confidence from that.

“We have to focus on what we have to do and what we should avoid doing.

“Their wingers are good and they have excellent players through the middle, too.”

Serie A leaders Inter Milan head to rock-bottom Empoli on Sunday after their flying start to the season came to an end in the Champions League on Wednesday.

The Nerazzurri opened their campaign with four victories from as many league games, scoring 13 goals and conceding just one – in a 5-1 thrashing of champions AC Milan last weekend.

Their first match in the Champions League – the competition in which they finished as runners-up last term – then saw them draw 1-1 at Real Sociedad thanks to a late equaliser from skipper Lautaro Martinez.

The Argentina forward, for whom it was a sixth goal of the season, emphasised the need for improvement.

“We didn’t play well,” Martinez said in quotes on Inter’s official website.

“We started poorly and struggled; we could have done better. I don’t think it was down to fatigue.

“This is how Real Sociedad play; they pushed high up the pitch, and we didn’t attack the space well. We were getting caught in possession close to our area, and we need to be better with our build-up play from the back.

“It’s important that we didn’t lose, and we did well to stay in the game. We really pushed to score an equaliser, but we didn’t play like we can. We need to raise our level.”

Simone Inzaghi’s men face an Empoli outfit who are yet to register a point or score a goal across their opening four league games, and sacked boss Paolo Zanetti after a 7-0 thrashing at Roma last Sunday.

The experienced Aurelio Andreazzoli has been brought in as Zanetti’s replacement, the 69-year-old signing a one-year contract with an option for a further season.

It is a fourth spell in charge at the club for Andreazzoli, who told a press conference: “I’m here with great enthusiasm. Empoli is an environment that I like and in which I feel good.

“I know the players and the team well from the outside, now I will evaluate from the inside.

“The general impression is that of a team that has the potential to express itself.

“The numbers are not comforting now but the journey is long, we are at the first step and then we will see which direction to take.

“The kids want to express themselves and we will try to put them in a position to do so without burdens. Everything that has happened has happened, we must look forward with enthusiasm.”

Andreazzoli’s first stint with Empoli saw him guide them to promotion from Serie B in 2017-18, and he kept them up in the top flight in 2021-22.

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