In-form Napoli play down title hopes

MILAN - Napoli fans have suffered so much heartache since the scudetto years of Diego Maradona that it is easy for them to get carried away by their 14-match unbeaten run in Serie A.

Fourth spot in the table and the sniff of Champions League football just six years after bankruptcy and reformation in the third tier has Naples dreaming of even greater glory.

A win in Saturday's home game with Genoa, a team with a similar recent history, would power Napoli up to joint second - for a day at least.

However, coach Walter Mazzarri believes any thoughts of adding to their 1987 and 1990 championships must be put on the back burner for the next few seasons.

"What we do this year will serve as a base for next season," he told Radiouno.

"If something extraordinary happens, we'll take it but we are not talking about precise objectives, we'll leave that to the big clubs."

The former Sampdoria coach, who has watched his former side plummet down the league having been early season-leaders, has propelled unbeaten Napoli in the opposite direction since taking over from the hapless Roberto Donadoni in early October.

Mazzarri knows Napoli are a big club given the huge soccer passion of the population of Italy's third city, who even packed the San Paolo with 50,000 crowds in Serie C.

Being bankrolled by film producer Aurelio De Laurentiis also helps.

They belong at the top table of Italian football and the recent woeful form of Juventus and Fiorentina has opened the door for a genuine tilt at Champions League qualification.

Last weekend's 2-0 win at Livorno was set up by Christian Maggio's wonder-goal, which revived memories of Marco van Basten's dipping volley from a tight angle at Euro 88.

The victory was all the more impressive given main strikers Fabio Quagliarella and Ezequiel Lavezzi were missing.

Argentina's Lavezzi is still injured but Italy World Cup hopeful Quagliarella returns from suspension against a Genoa side which finished fifth last term and now lies eighth.

Relentless leaders Inter Milan travel to suddenly stuttering Parma on Sunday when second-placed AC Milan, nine points adrift with a game in hand after Sunday's derby defeat, host Livorno.

Livorno coach Serse Cosmi quit at the weekend before returning to the club after clear-the-air talks with bosses.

Sixth-placed Juventus entertain struggling Lazio in Sunday's late game with speculation continuing over coach Ciro Ferrara's future after five league defeats in six.