Spalletti preparing Napoli victory speech as title looms

NAPLES, Italy (AP) — Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti is already preparing a victory speech as his team stands on the brink of ending a 33-year wait for the Serie A title.

After Napoli’s game was moved to Sunday, the team could secure the title in front of their own fans by beating Salernitana — if Lazio fails to win at Inter Milan earlier in the day.

Napoli was originally set to play Salernitana on Saturday but the match was rescheduled so that a possible title celebration can take place inside the stadium right after the match, which authorities in Naples hope will help them maintain public safety in the city.

So Spalletti is having to prepare some postgame remarks in addition to his normal pregame planning.

“They have told me to say something … if this happens, which we don’t know if it will happen,” Spalletti said on Saturday. “So I’ll have to prepare something in anticipation … and nothing is certain.”

The only thing that doesn’t seem certain, though, is the timing of when the title will be secured. Napoli has a 17-point lead over Lazio with seven rounds remaining so even if the celebrations are put on hold, it won’t be for long.

Napoli is set to secure the league trophy for the first time since 1990 — when it was led by Diego Maradona — and the city has been gearing itself up for weeks for the title celebration. Neapolitans have cast aside their superstitions about celebrating — or even mentioning — the word “scudetto,” or title, before it happens and have been decorating the city with streamers, banners, flags and life-size cardboard replicas of Napoli players.

Thousands of fans waited at the airport to welcome the Napoli team back from Turin last Sunday following its last-gasp 1-0 victory at Juventus, with a convoy of motorbikes and scooters then following the team bus.

Spalletti, though, urged his players to approach Sunday’s game as any other match, regardless of what happens earlier in the day.

“The team doesn’t have to change anything,” he said. “Having seen their desire this morning, I’m convinced that we will play our game. I don’t know if that will be enough because we’re facing a strong opponent, they haven’t lost in eight matches.”

The rescheduling of the game angered Salernitana president Ciro Iervolino, who was upset that his team now has a day less to prepare for a key midweek game on Saturday as it tries to secure its stay in Serie A.

But Spalletti insisted it wasn’t the club’s idea to move the match.

“We didn’t do anything as a team, on the contrary, we had to change our weekly work too,” he said. “So we have to accept this and from what we see and hear it was for security reasons.”

Napoli has asked supporters to arrive early at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, where there will be increased checks against fake tickets.

Spalletti was asked how he and his players are dealing with the anticipation on the eve of what could be Napoli’s greatest day in more than three decades.

“What we have before us is an incredible match for us and for our city,” he said. “It’s been a long time that we’ve wanted to experience these nights and we have to deal with it in the same way as always, being clear about what we have to do on the field and in the preparation to get there.”


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