MILAN (AP) — Napoli travels to bottom club Siena for the last Serie A game before the winter break, looking to end the year on a positive note after a week to forget.
After conceding late to lose 3-2 at home to struggler Bologna in the league on Sunday, it was dumped out of the Italian Cup by the same team on Wednesday following another stoppage-time winner. There has been more misery off the pitch, as on Tuesday Napoli was penalized two points in the standings for a fixed match three years ago while captain Paolo Cannavaro and defender Gianluca Grava were each banned for six months for failing to report the fix.
The sentence dropped the southern club from a tie for third place into fifth position, 10 points behind league leader Juventus, which faces Cagliari on Friday. Second-placed Inter Milan trails Juventus by seven points and hosts struggling Genoa on Saturday.
"Unfortunately when things go bad, they always get worse," Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri said. "The points deduction has affected us psychologically as well I think, as has the loss of Paolo and Gianluca, who are two driving characters in the dressing room.
"The only answer I know is to pay attention to everything. We have to search out the niggles, and adjust and fix everything, every little aspect, from private life to the last minute of training. I won't sleep, I have to find the right recipe so the lads can bounce back, because they're united."
Napoli has lost four games on the trot in all competitions and was booed at the end of its cup defeat. "I ask the fans to support these players, in a difficult time after so much joy before," Mazzarri said. "We hope we'll see signs of a turnaround against Siena.
"Last year we also lost four games in a row and then we won the next five." Siena also crashed out of the Italian Cup, on penalties to Lazio. It is new coach Giuseppe Iachini's first league match in charge since replacing the sacked Serse Cosmi.
Sampdoria also has a new man in charge after sacking Ciro Ferrara and bringing in Delio Rossi. It hosts Lazio, which has won five of its past six matches, drawing the other one. Juventus has recently welcomed coach Antonio Conte back and is going from strength to strength. It has won its past five games in all competitions without conceding a goal.
On Friday it faces Cagliari, with the game having been switched from Sardinina to Parma. "I'm expecting a great response from the team after a week full of compliments for everyone," Conte said. "There's the risk of being complacent, of thinking of the holidays already, but it's also in these moments that you grow.
"I'm convinced my team will also surprise me in a positive way tomorrow, in its mentality and approach to the game, above the result. You can win or lose but what matters is our attitude." Relegation-threatened Pescara hosts Catania in Friday's other match.
AC Milan is looking to extend its four-game winning streak in the league at Roma on Saturday, knowing it can leapfrog its opponents into sixth place. Also on Saturday, it's: Atalanta vs. Udinese; Bologna vs. Parma; Palermo vs. Fiorentina; and Torino vs. Chievo.