Napoli Stumble In Serie A, Messi, Dembele Back In Barca Squad

Feb 09 - by AFP for SportPesa News

Carlo Ancelotti's wasteful side stuttered to a 0-0 draw on Saturday and could trail leaders Juventus by 11 by the end of the weekend

Napoli's Algerian defender Faouzi Ghoulam (L) and Fiorentina's Argentine defender German Pezzella go for a header during the Italian Serie A football match Fiorentina vs Napoli on February 9, 2019 at the Artemio-Franchi stadium in Florence. PHOTO/AFP

  • Fiorentina goalkeeper Alban Lafont produced a string of saves to deny Piotr Zielinski and Dries Mertens as Napoli failed to score away from home for the third game running
  • In Spain, Ousmane Dembele is back in the Barcelona squad for Sunday's La Liga match away to Athletic Bilbao while Lionel Messi was also included in the matchday group by the Catalan club
  • The trip to Bilbao continues a hectic period for Valverde's team, which includes three games in four weeks against Real Madrid, as well as a Champions League double-header against Lyon

FLORENCE, Italy- Napoli could finish the weekend trailing Serie A leaders Juventus by 11 points after Carlo Ancelotti's wasteful side stuttered to a 0-0 draw at Fiorentina on Saturday.

Fiorentina goalkeeper Alban Lafont produced a string of saves to deny Piotr Zielinski and Dries Mertens as Napoli failed to score away from home for the third game running.

"We dropped two points that we would’ve deserved for attacking from start to finish," Ancelotti told Sky Sport Italia. 

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"In some ways, it was an impeccable performance, but we weren’t clinical enough in front of goal and were forced to make do with a point."

Hosts Fiorentina drew for the 11th time in 23 matches this season. Their best chance came just after half-time when French midfielder Jordan Veretout was denied by an excellent stop from Alex Meret.

Unbeaten Juventus could stretch their advantage to double digits on Sunday when they travel to mid-table Sassuolo.

In Spain, Ousmane Dembele is back in the Barcelona squad for Sunday's La Liga match away to Athletic Bilbao while Lionel Messi was also included in the matchday group by the Catalan club.

Similar situation

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde reiterated on Saturday Messi would play at San Mames only if he is fit, after the Argentinian started on the bench against Real Madrid on Wednesday due to pain in his thigh. 

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Dembele was not involved in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final but is in contention to face Bilbao, having recovered from an ankle injury. The 21-year-old has scored six goals in his last nine matches but has not played since January 20. 

"We will evaluate Dembele today," Valverde said on Friday. "Then we will decide if he is ready tomorrow." 

On Messi, Valverde said: "We are in a similar situation as before. If he is fine, he will surely play, and if not, we will have to adapt." 

Samuel Umtiti, who has endured problems with his knee all season and has been out since November, has begun light training but was not included in the squad. "Little by little, we hope he can rejoin his teammates," Valverde said. 

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Barca will be looking to restore their lead at the top of La Liga to eight points after Real Madrid jumped into second by beating Atletico Madrid 3-1 on Saturday. 

The trip to Bilbao continues a hectic period for Valverde's team, which includes three games in four weeks against Real Madrid, as well as a Champions League double-header against Lyon. 

"For any team in Europe, it's barbaric," Valverde said. 

"It's very difficult to adjust mentally to a high-intensity match every three days. It takes a lot. This week coming up is good. We will refresh some things and then go again," he added.