Hamsik: I dream of winning the Scudetto

Napoli captain Marek Hamsik admits that winning the Scudetto would be a dream come true for him and remains his priority this season.

The Partenopei have kept up with defending Serie A champions Juventus this campaign. They only trail the league leaders by two points, with nine games left to play.

Napoli haven't won the Serie A title since 1990, but Hamsik believes they have every chance of catching up to the Bianconeri, who have won the last six Scudetti.

“I still want to win the league, and I have some personal objectives - starts, goals in a game,” Hamsik told Sport Aktuality.

“I’m focused on Napoli, we’re aiming for the Scudetto and it would be the fulfilment of one of my dreams.

“The points gap? It’s not pleasant, but there’s certainly no need to panic. We’ve dropped points, but Juventus can drop points.

“There’s still a lot of football to be played between now and the end of the season, there will be matches where Juventus could drop points.

“They’re playing away at Roma, away at Milan and against [Milan] Skriniar’s Inter at home. Of course, our head-to-head game will also tell us a lot.”

Alex Sandro a doubt for Milan clash

Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri could be without Alex Sandro for the visit of Milan after he sustained a thigh injury during training with Brazil.

The 27-year-old left-back had linked up with the Selecao squad for friendlies against Russia and Germany during the international break, but quickly returned to Turin from a training camp.

Subsequent scans conducted by Juve's medical staff have revealed a problem with Alex Sandro's right thigh, although no timescale has been given for his return.

The Serie A resumes on March 31 when the league leaders welcome the Champions League-chasing Rossoneri to the Juventus Stadium looking to maintain the two-point gap to Napoli in second place.

"After having returned from the Brazilian national team training camp, Alex Sandro was given further medical examinations, which confirmed the extent of the injury," the Bianconeri announced in a statement.

"The player has a muscular issue with his right thigh and will begin physiotherapy today."

Chiellini injury not long term

Juventus have revealed that the injury defender Giorgio Chiellini picked up is not serious but will keep him sidelined for Italy's international friendlies.

The 33-year-old centre-back withdrew from the Azzurri squad on Tuesday due to an injury he sustained to the flexor muscles in his right thigh.

However, the Bianconeri have assured the club's supporters that Chiellini will not be out of contention for long and will be re-evaluated next week.

"Giorgio Chiellini underwent a medical check-up on Tuesday after reporting a niggling injury to the flexor muscles in his right thigh, which caused him to withdraw from Italy's international friendlies yesterday," read a statement issued by Juve.

"The tests revealed that Chiellini's injury, while not serious, will require daily monitoring. The defender has started undergoing physiotherapy and his condition will be re-evaluated next week."

Italy will square off against Argentina and England on March 23 and 27 respectively.

De Vrij would relish captaining Netherlands

Lazio and Netherlands centre-back Stefan De Vrij says he would be honoured to be appointed captain, as he enjoyed a stint in charge in 2014 against Ecuador.

In addition, the 26-year-old says training with the national team set-up has been positive under manager Ronald Koeman.
The pair worked with one another during their time together with Feyenoord in the Eredivisie.

Oranje face England at the Amsterdam ArenA on Friday before facing off against Portugal on the following Monday at the Stade de Genève.

He told NOS: "We are pleased to be here and we have confidence under new Dutch national team manager Ronald Koeman. We are in a good phase of development. 

"We are training at the new KNVB headquarters and it’s very impressive. It provides are real togetherness and we can focus on our football. 

"It's been four years since I last worked with Ronald Koeman at Feyenoord and I can only be positive about working with him. 

"Our new captain is still to be named. Who would not want to be captain of the Dutch national team? That is an honour for anyone. 

"I was captain of the Dutch national team before the World Cup 2014 in a friendly against Ecuador after Robin van Persie was subbed off and it was a wonderful experience."

Hateboer delighted with Netherlands selection

Atalanta right-back Hans Hateboer says he is delighted at being selected for the Netherlands ahead of upcoming friendly matches against England and Portugal.

The 25-year-old has been in good form for his Italian Serie A outfit and has made 23 league appearances for the Gian Piero Gasperini-coached team. 

Currently, La Dea are seventh in the standings and still have a mathematical chance of qualifying for the Europa League. Nonetheless, Hateboer says he is delighted at being selected by coach Ronald Koeman for the next two games.

Oranje face the English at the Amsterdam ArenA on Friday before facing off against the Portuguese on the following Monday at the Stade de Genève.

The player told Ons Oranje: "I was at home with my girlfriend and we had to train in the afternoon, and just before I left, I got the message and it said that I was there. I have had a lot of messages from friends and family, it's all new and I’m glad I’m in. It was a nice week.” 

"I did not expect it, but I had hoped for it, of course. Last year I made big strides at Atalanta, we did good in Europe and we do well in the league. I am more and more mentioned in the media, then you know that you can take it into account." 

Agent: No Jorginho contact with United

Jorginho's agent has denied speculation that Manchester United have made an approach for the Napoli midfielder in their efforts to replace Michael Carrick.

United captain Carrick recently announced he will retire at the end of the season and has accepted a role in Jose Mourinho's backroom staff for 2018/19.

Jorginho, meanwhile, has played a key part in the Azzurri's title challenge this term, featuring in 26 of their 29 Serie A games while contributing two goals and four assists.

The 26-year-old's form is said to have attracted the attention of Mourinho, who is looking for someone to anchor the midfield alongside Nemanja Matic.

But Joao Santos insists the Red Devils have not made contact with his client amid suggestions that the Italian club are lining up Lucas Torreira of Sampdoria as his replacement.

"With [head coach Maurizio] Sarri, he has the privilege to play the football he prefers and, in the dressing room, he has become an important element after more than four years," the agent told Radio CRC.

"My client is a good kid, he is focused on fighting for the Scudetto with his club and plays for one of the top national teams in the world. If a player like that isn't on the radar of big clubs like Manchester United, then something is wrong.

"I don't know if Napoli are talking with Torreira's agent. I have spoken to [Napoli sporting director Cristiano] Giuntoli three times in the last month and he hasn't said anything.

"I can say that no manager of Manchester United has done what Napoli are doing on the Torreira front."

Sarri: Napoli fans are unrivaled

Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri has heaped praise on the club's fans after receiving the Premio Maestrelli award for the best coach in Europe this season.

The Partenopei have performed above expectations this term as they keep up with Serie A leaders Juventus, who only have a two-point lead over Napoli with nine games left to play. 

Sarri has been impressed by the club's supporters and is determined to pay them back by giving his very best in the hunt for their first Serie A title since 1990.

The Napoli boss spoke after receiving the Premio Maestrelli award for the best coach in Europe for his work at the Partenopei this season.

“We played a great game against Inter at San Siro,” Sarri told Montecatini Terme when he was asked about the goalless draw with Inter last week.

“We had it under control and the fact we didn’t win left a bitter taste. That means we’re doing well, we, the fans and the media are getting used to extraordinary achievements!

“We can’t be prisoners to anything, we have a path to follow and we’re not a team that wins without playing well because of our characteristics, we’re about good play.

“The relationship between the San Paolo and the team is something extraordinary, with me particularly.

“The Neapolitans fanbase has no equal, you go on the pitch and you receive something that is much more than emotional. I feel a great debt, and the only way I know to repay it is to give my best."

Milan open to new Gattuso contract

AC Milan chief executive Marco Fassone has revealed that the club are willing to open contract negotiations with manager Gennaro Gattuso. 

The Rossoneri have won 14 and lost only five of their 23 games across all competitions, since Gattuso was appointed as Milan boss on November 27 last year.

Fassone has been impressed by Gattuso's ability to lift the Serie A side and appears happy to give the former midfield general a new contract, with his current deal due to expire next year.

Fassone told Milan TV: "We are very pleased with his work. (Director of sport Massimiliano]) Mirabelli was so convinced about him that I could not refuse to support him.

"Now he has gone beyond expectations and we'll surely find the right time to speak about his contract.

"I was expecting Rino to be like this, but I am impressed with his ability to manage the games. Important achievements await him as a coach."

Nice doubt Balotelli will stay put

Nice are not confident of keeping Mario Balotelli at the club beyond the current campaign, as they are likely to miss out on European football in 2018/19.

The 27-year-old striker got his career back on track at the Allianz Riviera after failed spells with Liverpool and Milan, helping Les Aiglons to a third-placed finish last term.

Balotelli has already bettered his tally of 17 goals in his debut season by five, but with Lucien Favre's side a good 12 points adrift of the top four in eighth place, European qualification is looking increasingly slim.

The Italian will be out of contract at the end of June and his agent, Mino Raiola, indicated a liking for the project at Napoli, who are pushing Juventus for the Serie A title.

Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere admitted before Sunday's 2-1 defeat to league leaders Paris Saint-Germain that Balotelli is expected to move on - a sentiment echoed by Favre.

"It is likely that Mario may be leaving to see other horizons," Rivere said. "We'll see what happens in the transfer window."

Speaking after the match, Favre told Canal : "It's more likely than not that Mario will leave."

De Sciglio: We have to do better

Mattia De Sciglio admitted that Juventus were shocked to be held to a goalless draw with SPAL on Saturday.

The Serie A leaders were unable to find a way past their 17th-placed opponents, who have conceded 50 goals in 29 games this season.

De Sciglio conceded that Juve failed to show enough patience to break down a diligent SPAL defence.

After the match, the 25-year-old Italian fullback told his club's official website: "We certainly expected a different game and a different result, but we knew it would be tricky.

De Sciglio further explained: "Physically we're in decent shape; we just came up short with our final ball. We kept trying to go through the middle, but to no avail.

“Perhaps we were a bit too stubborn about it. When you're up against teams that are so well organised in defence – as SPAL were tonight – you have to be patient, but instead we rushed things at times.”

Despite the draw, Juve remain five points clear at the top of the standings, ahead of Napoli who play Genoa on Sunday. SPAL are one point clear of the relegation places in 17th.

Up next for Juventus is a home tie with Milan in two weeks.

De Sciglio continued: "We're top of the league and we're just focusing on ourselves, as always. 

"We have the break now and afterwards we go straight into a run of very difficult games, with three big ones to come at the end of the season. We'll have to make sure we play better than we did tonight."