Posted: Thursday February 7, 2013 6:55 AM

Lazio hosts title rival Napoli in Serie A

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MILAN (AP) -Lazio hopes to arrest its slide and pass its bad fortune of late to fellow title-chaser Napoli when they meet in the Serie A on Saturday.

Napoli has won five and drawn one of its last six games to propel it to second-place, three points behind defending champion Juventus.

Lazio, which had been on an unbeaten run of 16 games in all competitions, has lost two straight league matches. Moreover, the capital side has lost key striker Miroslave Klose for around eight weeks after the German forward was injured on international duty.

Lazio snapped up free agent Louis Saha as cover on Wednesday.

"I'm here to help,'' the former Manchester United striker said. "I know it will be a difficult game, but I will give my best.

"I'm really happy to be here for this big club. I've found a great group here, working with them will be a real pleasure for me. I'm here to help them overcome this injury and I do it really willingly.''

Also on Saturday, Juventus hosts Fiorentina, which picked up its first win in six matches against Parma last weekend. AC Milan travels to Cagliari on Sunday knowing it can catch third-placed Lazio, should it lose to Napoli.

Victory for Napoli would see it draw level with Juventus if Antonio Conte's men lose to Fiorentina. Defender Gianluca Grava says he and his teammates have the title in their sights.

"There's a really important match on Saturday against a really good team,'' he said. "We know that we are a great squad but you can only judge achievements at the end. We hope to reach important goals. We'll try right until the end.

"I wouldn't sign now for second place. The season is long, we have a good advantage over the other teams, we'll give Juventus a hard time until the end. There's still important games for both of us until we play them on March 1.''

Lazio hopes to have Hernanes back from injury. The midfielder has been given the green light to resume playing following a head injury in the Italian Cup semifinal victory over Juventus.

Veteran midfielder Christian Brocchi is out and there are fears his career could be over, with the 37-year-old needing surgery on dislocated bones in his foot following Lazio's 3-2 loss to Genoa.

Juventus led Napoli by 10 points just a few weeks ago, but the Turin squad has struggled in recent matches and Sunday's 2-1 win at Chievo Verona was its second win in five league matches - a period which also saw it exit the Italian Cup.

It faces Celtic in the Champions League, just three days later.

"We hoped to have built up such an advantage that we could dedicate more attention to the Champions League, which is really important for us,'' striker Alessandro Matri said. "But the fact that Napoli has got closer means we have to think more about the league now and then, from Sunday, Europe.

"The win in Verona helped our morale, because when you're not getting the results, even if you're playing well, it's inevitable, that you're not at the top.''

Milan moved up to fourth in the table after Mario Balotelli marked his return to Serie A by scoring both goals - including the winner in added time - in Sunday's 2-1 win over Udinese.

Following a difficult start to the season, Massimiliano Allegri's team has recovered and has started forcing its way back up the Serie A table and into contention for a Champions League spot.

It will be looking for its ninth win in 11 games when it visits Cagliari.

Elsewhere, Roma visits Sampdoria for its first match since Zdenek Zeman was fired after Friday's 4-2 loss at Cagliari. Aurelio Andreazzoli is in charge on an interim basis.

Bottom club Palermo also has a new coach, its third of the season. Alberto Malesani is in charge for the Sicilian side's home match against Pescara after Gian Piero Gasperini was sacked.

Also, on Sunday, it's: Parma vs. Genoa; Atalanta vs. Catania; Bologna vs. Siena; Udinese vs. Torino; and Inter Milan vs. Chievo.

 
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