Serie A Preview: Pioli plays it cool ahead of Napoli visit

Lazio coach Stefano Pioli has played down expectations of challenging for Europe ahead of Sunday's Serie A clash with Napoli.

Stefano Pioli has cooled talk of Lazio challenging for a European berth this season as he prepares to welcome fourth-place Napoli to the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.

Third meets fourth in Rome with Pioli's men a point clear of Napoli, having not tasted defeat in any competition since November. 

Rafael Benitez's men will be seeking to bounce back from their 3-1 defeat to Juventus, in which they felt hard done by with certain refereeing decisions, and Pioli has warned Lazio have work to do if they are to maintain their lofty position. 

"We are going through a good period of form and knew January would be an important month in the fixture list," he explained after Wednesday's Coppa Italia win over Torino.

"I am fortunate to have a complete squad that has a lot of quality in all areas. Now we can look ahead to Napoli, which will be a difficult match.

"It’s premature to talk about [Europe]. The important thing is that all the lads are involved in a healthy competition for places, so there are no first choice and second string players."

Pioli will be without in-form forward Felipe Anderson due to a knee injury as Lazio look to close the gap on city rivals Roma above them following last weekend's derby stalemate. 

Rudi Garcia's side travel to Palermo on Saturday, while leaders Juve entertain Hellas Verona on Sunday - having beaten Andrea Mandorlini's side 6-1 in the Coppa Italia on Thursday.

At the bottom, Cesena and Parma both have home advantage as they host Torino and Sampdoria respectively, with Gianfranco Zola's Cagliari visiting Udinese.

Zola picked up his first win in charge against Cesena last time out in the league and, while his side were beaten by Parma in the Coppa Italia on Wednesday, victory on Sunday could take them out of the bottom three. 

Cagliari would need results elsewhere to go their way with Chievo taking on Fiorentina and Atalanta travelling to San Siro to face Milan. 

Roberto Mancini could hand recent signing Xherdan Shaqiri his Inter debut on Saturday against Empoli - with the Swiss likely to ask questions of a side who have drawn their last three home Serie A games 0-0.

Elsewhere, Genoa host Sassuolo in a battle between two mid-table teams.