MILAN: Napoli’s hopes of playing European football next season suffered a setback as they endured a frustrating 1-0 defeat at lowly Empoli that left them eighth in Serie A on Saturday.

Empoli, who are battling relegation, opened the scoring after four minutes when striker Alberto Cerri headed in a close-range cross for what proved to be the winner.

Serie A is set to secure at least five spots in an expanded Champions League competition next season but Napoli have taken only five points from their last five league matches.

Roma and Atalanta both made the semi-finals of the Europa League on Thursday while Fiorentina are in the last four of the Europa Conference League.

That means that Italy has a coefficient of 19.428 points, ahead of Germany (17.928 points) and England (17.375) and will take one of two extra spots in the tournament.

Napoli stay on 49 points, three points off Lazio in sixth, six points behind AS Roma, in fifth with two games in hand, and 10 adrift of fourth-placed Bologna, who visit Roma on Monday.

Empoli are 15th with 31 points, four points clear of the drop zone.

“Clearly, Napoli had notorious problems this season. I honestly did not expect to find the situation like this,” the Naples club’s coach Francesco Calzona told DAZN. “Playing every three days, we managed to hide some of the issues, but this team has got to do more, we owe it to the city, to the club that pays our wages.”

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2024

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