Napoli coach Francesco Calzona is determined to see the Partenopei finish the season on a high despite their European hopes being further hit by Monday's 1-1 draw with struggling Udinese. 

Victor Osimhen nodded home to give Napoli the lead in the 51st minute before Udinese forward Isaac Success bundled in the leveller in stoppage time.

The result – which came on the same ground where Napoli clinched the Scudetto last season – leaves them nine points adrift of Atalanta and Roma, who sit fifth and sixth in Serie A respectively, with just nine to play for.

"Clearly I thought we could do better, without a doubt. Unfortunately that wasn't the case," Calzona told DAZN.

"We have to ask the management about the future of Napoli, it's clear that we have the qualities to do better. 

"It was a disappointing and unfortunate year, but we absolutely must finish this championship on a high note."

Napoli had 50 points halfway through their Scudetto-winning 2022-23 campaign but have just 51 after 35 games this term, with their ambitions now limited to a Europa League spot.

Calzona says European qualification remains crucial as Napoli look ahead to 2024-25, adding: "Naples is a great place, perhaps after a year like this there will be many rumours circulating.

"But it is not a justification, I repeated that there is still a possibility of reaching Europe.

"We have improved a little, but it's not enough. We have to do more to win these games. We have also created, the team continues to have good possession, but at times it is sterile.

"But we have to be more incisive. In the second half we did it but we have to avoid the end of the game where it gets dirty".

Napoli next host fourth-placed Bologna on Saturday before they travel to Fiorentina, who are one point behind them in ninth and still have a game in hand.

Napoli have confirmed club president Aurelio De Laurentiis has spoken to prosecutors as part of an inquiry into the signing of Victor Osimhen.

Italian media has reported De Laurentiis is under investigation for alleged false accounting.

Prosecutors reportedly allege that the market value of four players Napoli sold to Lille as part of a deal to buy Nigeria striker Osimhen in September 2020 were inflated to help the Italian club balance their books.

A Napoli statement on Wednesday said: “Upon his request, Aurelio De Laurentiis was heard today at the prosecutor’s office in Rome as part of the ongoing inquiry into the purchase of Victor Osimhen.”

According to Italian media, Napoli paid Lille around £65.5milion for Osimhen, with the total value of the four outgoing players – Ciro Palmieri, Orestis Karnezis, Luigi Liguori and Claudio Manzi – given as around £17.15m.

Osimhen was instrumental in Napoli winning the Serie A title last season for the first time in 33 years, finishing as top scorer with 26 goals.

The 25-year-old signed a new contract in December, but it contains a reported £100m release clause and he has bene linked with a summer move away from the club.

Robert Lewandowski scored a crucial late goal as a nervy Barcelona edged into the Champions League quarter-finals with a 3-1 win over Napoli.

Lewandowski’s 83rd-minute effort finally finished off the Italians at the Lluis Companys Olympic Stadium with Barca progressing 4-2 on aggregate.

Barca had stormed ahead with goals in quick succession from Fermin Lopez and Joao Cancelo but Napoli hit back through Amir Rrahmani and were threatening an equaliser before Lewandowski had the last word.

Napoli striker Victor Osimhen had the first chance of what proved an open game but failed to trouble Marc-Andre Ter Stegen before Lopez dragged a shot wide at the other end.

That proved a sighter for Lopez, who opened the scoring after 15 minutes following a flowing Barca move.

Cancelo was involved on the left before Raphinha reached the byline and pulled the ball back invitingly in front of goal. Lewandowski cleverly left the ball for the inrushing Lopez and he sidefooted firmly home.

Barca doubled their lead just two minutes later after Lamine Yamal controlled a high ball on the edge of his own box and launched a rapid counter-attack.

He broke deep into Napoli territory and then released Raphinha, who cut inside on to his right foot and thumped a shot against the post. As the ball rebounded, Cancelo was on hand to tuck away.

It seemed the Catalan giants were cruising but Napoli served warning they were not out of the contest as Osimhen tested Ter Stegen, although he was given offside.

The Italian side grabbed a goal back after 30 minutes as Matteo Politano pulled the ball back across the area and Rrahmani met it with a nice left-foot finish.

They then threatened an equaliser before the break as Giovanni Di Lorenzo got forward but Ter Stegen tipped over his dipping header.

Napoli pushed again after the break and wanted a penalty after Osimhen went down following a challenge from Pau Cubarsi but nothing was given.

Barca were forced to defend deep and struggled to get out of their half until Raphinha forced Alex Meret to save from a free-kick after 67 minutes.

Yamal then turned the ball into the net after a Lewandowski header was saved but it was ruled out for offside.

Ilkay Gundogan had a shot on the turn saved by Meret as Barca began to regain control but they were almost caught out when Jesper Lindstrom planted a header narrowly wide for Napoli.

Lewandowski claimed Barca’s decisive third goal seven minutes from time with a close-range finish after neat interplay between Gundogan and Sergi Roberto.

Napoli were not quite done as substitute Mathias Olivera rattled the woodwork and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia sent a ferocious drive inches wide, but Barca had done enough.

What the papers say

Manchester United and Paris St Germain have emerged as the frontrunners to land the signature of Victor Osimhen in the summer. According to The Independent, Chelsea and Arsenal are also interested in the Napoli forward.

The Telegraph reports Newcastle are edging closer to inking a new deal with midfielder Joelinton. The 27-year-old has little over a year left on his current deal, but the two parties are believed to be on similar terms with negotiations proving productive thus far.

Tottenham have reportedly taken an interest in Sporting Lisbon midfielder Morten Hjulmand. The Sun, citing Portuguese paper Record, says Spurs sent scouts to watch the Denmark international in action as Sporting beat rivals Benfica 2-1 last Thursday, with a view to a potential summer move for the 24-year-old.

And the i says Newcastle intend to send 19-year-old winger Yankuba Minteh out on loan for a second successive season. Minteh has been at Dutch side Feyenoord this season.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Alphonso Davies: Real Madrid are willing to offer as much as £43m for the Bayern Munich defender, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Archie Brown: HITC reports Chelsea, Leeds and West Ham are all monitoring the English defender, currently playing for Belgian side Gent.

What the papers say

Big changes could be in the pipeline at Chelsea on and off the pitch this summer, according to various reports. The Daily Mail says Sporting Lisbon boss Ruben Amorim is a possible replacement for manager Mauricio Pochettino.

On the field, the club are looking to sell defender Trevoh Chalobah, 24, and Albania forward Armando Broja, 22, according to The Daily Telegraph. England midfielder Conor Gallagher, 24, and Spain left-back Marc Cucurella, 25, could also leave in the summer.

Summer changes are also expected at Manchester United. The Manchester Evening News says Brazil winger Antony, 24, is among the players they would be prepared to sell.

Victor Osimhen is eyeing a move to the Premier League, according to The Sun. Arsenal and Chelsea are believed to be heading the race for the Napoli striker, 25, although Manchester United and Paris St Germain are also reportedly  interested.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Alphonso Davies: Real Madrid have reached agreement to sign the Bayern Munich and Canada left-back, 23, in the summer or next year, according to The Athletic.

Joao Palhinha: Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Arsenal are chasing the Fulham and Portugal midfielder, 28, reports Football Insider.

Hosts Ivory Coast will continue to draw strength from adversity as they seek to complete one of the great Africa Cup of Nations comebacks against Nigeria in Abidjan on Sunday.

The Elephants looked down and out after a 4-0 group stage defeat to Equatorial Guinea that led to the sacking of Jean-Louis Gasset and left their tournament destiny out of their hands.

But after squeezing through as one of the best-placed third-placed sides, Emerse Fae has led his side past defending champions Senegal and within 90 minutes of an improbable third continental crown.

Fae, who was given the role on a temporary basis when his side’s future in the tournament was still unsure, said the uncertainty had proved a uniting force in turning their campaign around.

“The way we qualified, I think at a certain point our destiny no longer depended on us, so we said to ourselves that we are already dead anyway,” Fae told a press conference.

“So, we decided to give it our all, because we had nothing left to lose in the end. Gradually, we remobilised, we tried to become a more united group, and the results gave us a little more confidence.”

Belief may be sweeping around the host nation but Fae’s side face a mighty challenge in the shape of Nigeria, whose tournament experience has been the opposite of their opponents.

The Super Eagles eased through the group stages, including a 1-0 win over Sunday’s opponents, but were pushed to the limit in a nervy semi-final shoot-out win over South Africa.

Nigeria coach Jose Peseiro is relishing the emotions of his first Africa Cup of Nations experience and says he is undaunted by what is likely to prove a frenzied atmosphere in the Ivorian capital.

“I always prefer to play in a full stadium rather than an empty one, and my players must show the same desire and commitment on the pitch,” said Peseiro.

“This is my first AFCON, and the emotions in Africa are very special. There is joy when you win but it is difficult when you lose and it is important to find a balance.”

While the hosts are looking for their first tournament win since 2015 and a third overall, victory for Nigeria would bring their first since 2013.

Victor Osimhen is set to start again for Nigeria after missing the early part of the tournament with an abdominal injury, but wing-back Zaidu Sanusi continues to be a major doubt due to a hamstring injury.

For the Ivory Coast, Serge Aurier, Odilon Kossounou and Oumar Diakite all return from suspension, with Fae set to pick between Max Gradel or Nicolas Pepe to partner semi-final match-winner Sebastien Haller up front.

NB: You can watch the exciting action of the Africa Cup of Nations on Sportsmax and the Sportsmax App. Download the app from the Google store or the App store.

Stefano Pioli believes his longevity in the AC Milan top job speaks for itself amid ceaseless speculation the boss could soon be replaced at San Siro.

Milan, who won the Serie A title under Pioli in 2022, have won six of their last eight games in an unbeaten spell but nevertheless sit eight points behind league leaders and city rivals Inter Milan ahead of Sunday’s showdown with Napoli.

Pioli took charge of the Rossoneri in October 2019 and is poised to draw level with Milan great Arrigo Sacchi – a 1988 Scudetto winner and twice a European champion with the club – on 220 matches coached this weekend.

However, reports in Italy continue to suggest the likes of Julen Lopetegui and Antonio Conte are being lined up to replace him, a situation which the 58-year-old is growing increasingly fed up with.

He told a press conference: “Sacchi was a fantastic coach of his era, an innovator. Equalling him for the number of appearances in the Rossoneri dugout can only make me proud.

“I love my work, I have great passion for it, I have been fortunate in my career as a coach and a player.

“The pleasure of coaching always trumps the pressure and criticism, the positive elements prevail, in particular having a group of special people.”

Despite Napoli being the reigning champions, they are languishing down in seventh place under Walter Mazzarri. Pioli is suitably wary of their many threats, though.

“Napoli are not doing great in the table but they have great statistics, especially in attack,” he said. “Tactics have changed with Mazzarri. Napoli have quality, we need to face them with respect and focus.

“Both sides have forwards that can change the game, we will also need to be tight in the midfield. There needs to be a high level of organisation and play.”

Mazzarri has endured his own share of negative appraisals from Naples and beyond as he looks to steer the Azzurri back towards the Champions League places following a disappointing start to the campaign under predecessor Rudi Garcia.

The former Watford manager hopes Napoli turned a corner after last weekend’s victory over Hellas Verona.

He said: “Sixteen finals remain and perhaps the curse is lifting, let’s hope this is start of a new journey for us.”

Milan’s Dutch midfielder Tijjani Reijnders is banned for the Sunday clash with Mario Rui suspended for the visitors, while Victor Osimhen is away contesting the Africa Cup of Nations final with Nigeria.

Nigeria striker Victor Osimhen has been passed fit to play in his side’s Africa Cup of Nations semi-final against South Africa.

Osimhen was carried off on a stretcher during Nigeria’s 1-0 victory over Angola with abdominal pain and was a doubt for Wednesday’s last-four clash.

But having not travelled to Bouake on Monday, the Napoli forward arrived a day later and managed to train.

A tweet from the Super Eagles’ X account read: “Victor Osimhen has been declared fit and available for selection in the semi-final clash against South Africa on Wednesday. He has joined the team in Bouake and has trained with the squad today.”

South Africa come into the match after last week’s penalty shoot-out victory over Cape Verde.

Nigeria boss Jose Peseiro offered a reminder that his team need to play at a high level if they are to book their place in Sunday’s final against either DR Congo or hosts Ivory Coast.

He told a press conference: “We’ve done a good job now getting to the semi-finals. We’ve showed good spirit and organisation.

“We play like a team together. We must play a high level match, we know the capacity of our opponent. We must play at 100 per cent or more to beat a very good team.”

Nigeria have not lifted the trophy since 2013 but Peseiro remained hopeful his side can triumph.

The Portuguese said: “My belief is that we can win this competition. But they (South Africa) also want to win AFCON, just like us.”

AFCON semi-finals will be live on SportsMax and the SportsMax App.

Nigeria edged past Angola 1-0 to reach the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals thanks to a first-half goal from Ademola Lookman.

The former Fulham and Everton winger crashed home the only goal of the game in the 41st minute as the Super Eagles, chasing a fourth AFCON title, came up against a determined resistance in Abidjan.

Jose Peseiro’s side will face the winner of Cape Verde against South Africa, who meet in Yamoussoukro on Saturday, for a place in the final.

Nigeria’s star striker Victor Osimhen twice went close in the first half with headers, the first when he got on the end of Moses Simon’s cross but could only guide this effort into the goalkeeper’s hands, then again when he nodded across goal after meeting Ola Aina’s long throw.

What would prove to be the winning goal arrived four minutes before half-time and Simon was the architect.

Alex Iwobi began the move with a sweeping ball from right to left. Nantes winger Simon found space with a well-time run down the wing and, having carried the ball to the byline, looked up and found Lookman. He evaded the attentions of Angola’s defence and hit a thumping first-time finish into the roof of the net.

Early in the second half, Calvin Bassey took the ball off the foot of team-mate Osimhen as he sought to execute a close-range overhead kick, the Fulham player nodding over the bar after Angola failed to clear a corner, as Nigeria sought to settle the game.

Minutes later, Angola came within an inch of levelling. Zini sprung Nigeria’s offside trip with an expertly timed run from a defence-splitting pass. Bearing down one-on-one against Stanley Nwabali, he opened up his right foot and despatched an effort that rebounded off the inside of the post and away to safety.

Osimhen thought he had made it 2-0 when his header from Bassey’s free-kick went in off the post, but the goal was ruled out by VAR for offside, to the relief of Angola goalkeeper Antonio Dominique who had allowed the ball to squeeze through his hands.

The Napoli striker spurned another chance to seal it with 10 minutes to play, racing on to Lookman’s ball out from the back and running through on goal. He was denied by a superb last-ditch block from defender Kialonda Gaspar who deflected the ball away.

Head coach Rigobert Song admitted Cameroon must tighten up at the back if they are to progress to the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals.

Cameroon were just minutes away from a group-stage elimination after trailing Gambia but a James Gomez own goal and injury-time strike from Christopher Wooh sealed a 3-2 victory and a last-16 place.

They take on Nigeria in Abidjan on Saturday but Song warned his backline to be more vigilant ahead of them lining up against African Footballer of the Year Victor Osimhen.

“We have already conceded six goals and we will (have to) find the formula to not concede,” former Liverpool and West Ham defender Song told a press conference.

“We will try to put Nigeria in difficulty and fight to continue.

“I know what needs to be done and we will do everything possible to obtain a positive result.”

Cameroon are expected to be boosted by the return of captain Vincent Aboubakar, who missed the entire group stage with a thigh injury.

Nigeria had a more straightforward passage into the knockout stages, following up a draw against Equatorial Guinea with wins over tournament hosts Ivory Coast and minnows Guinea-Bissau.

They have only scored three goals in the campaign but boss Jose Peseiro is satisfied with their approach.

“I saw some statistics that said our team until now has created more clear opportunities than the other opponents,” Peseiro told a press conference.

“Sometimes the ketchup doesn’t come, but the next time all the ketchup (comes out). In the next match or another match, we can score more goals with less opportunities.”

What the papers say

Napoli striker Victor Osimhen has made a decision over where he will play next in his career, the Daily Mail reports. However, it is yet to be confirmed if he will go for Manchester United, Chelsea, or Arsenal, as all three Premier League clubs are reportedly keen on the Nigeria international.

The Daily Mail also states that Southampton, Burnley, and Leicester all have their eye on attacking midfielder Callum O’Hare, who is out of contract with Coventry in the summer.

Manchester United have refused to continue talks to obtain Karim Benzema due to “exorbitant” sums being sought for the 36-year-old, Sky Sports reports.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Joshua Kimmich: Liverpool and Manchester City are going head-to-head to sign the midfielder from Bayern Munich, writes Bild.

Martin Dubravka: Newcastle’s Slovakia goalkeeper is considering his future at the club, according to i Sport.

Mason Greenwood: Manchester United plan to recoup £100million via the sale of players this summer, with the 22-year-old English forward leading the list, writes i Sport.

What the papers say

Al-Nassr are planning to offer Manchester United a pair of “audacious” bids for midfielder Casemiro and defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka, the Daily Mail reports, in the wake of the Tottenham’s refusal to offload Emerson Royal to the Saudi league outfit.

Also from the Mail, Lyon are said to be targeting winger Arnaut Danjuma in the transfer window, as apparently the 26-year-old’s parent club Villarreal have become frustrated at his lack of game time while on loan at Everton.

According to the Sun, Manchester Untied are leading the race to sign Bologna’s Dutch forward Joshua Zirkzee despite interest from Arsenal.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Victor Osimhen: The 25-year-old has hinted that he is ready to leave Napoli, with Chelsea, Manchester United, and Real Madrid keen on the Nigerian, 90 Min reports.

Antonio Nusa: Newcastle are considering hijacking Tottenham’s proposed move for Club Bruges’ teenage forward, with Football Insider claiming he is seen as a direct replacement for Miguel Almiron who may leave Tyneside for Saudi side Al-Shabab.

Karim Benzema: Chelsea are interested in signing the 36-year-old French forward from Al-Ittihad, claims the Guardian.

A William Troost-Ekong penalty gave Nigeria a 1-0 victory over hosts Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations on Thursday.

The Nigeria captain struck from the spot early in the second half in Abidjan as the Super Eagles claimed their first victory of the tournament and leapfrogged the Ivorians in Group A.

Ivory Coast spurned a host of chances and paid the price after Ola Aina was adjudged to have fouled Victor Osimhen in the area following a review by VAR.

The result meant Nigeria drew level with Equatorial Guinea on four points in the group, while Ivory Coast have three with one game to play.

Napoli forward Osimhen went close to giving Nigeria an early lead when he outpaced Serge Aurier but he was unable to keep his shot down.

That proved a rare opening for Nigeria in the first half as Ivory Coast dominated.

Christian Kouame was a threat up front for Ivory Coast but headed well over under pressure from Troost-Ekong.

Kouambe shot on the turn after Zaidu Sanusi failed to deal with a bouncing ball but goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali blocked.

Kouambe also pulled back across goal to tee up Evan Ndicka but he volleyed straight at Nwabali.

Nwabali then kept out a long-range effort from Seko Fofana and Sanusi reacted quickly to block Kouame’s follow-up attempt.

Nigeria seized the initiative early in the second half after Aina appeared to kick Osimhen in a challenge. Play was initially allowed to go on but the referee reversed his decision after reviewing on the pitchside monitor.

Former Watford defender Troost-Ekong made no mistake as he smashed home the resulting spot-kick.

Ivory Coast responded but Ousmane Diomande headed well over and Ibrahim Sangare also missed the target.

Fofana went closer as the hosts stepped up the pressure but his shot flew wide and Ndicka missed with a back-post header.

Bright Osayi-Samuel spurned a chance to wrap up victory for Nigeria when he delayed a shot but Ivory Coast failed to threaten again despite applying late pressure.

What the papers say

Chelsea will have to pay more than £100million if they want to sign 19-year-old Irish striker Evan Ferguson as Brighton resist letting go of the teenager, the Evening Standard says. Ferguson has signed a deal with Brighton until 2029 after a promising start to his career, including scoring six goals for the club this season.

Everton have slapped a £60million fee on 22-year-old midfielder Amadou Onana, and i sport reports that Arsenal, who are interested in the Belgian, will have to sell a player to afford him.

Fulham, Everton and clubs overseas are said to be interested in Brentford’s 26-year-old midfielder Frank Onyeka, the Guardian reports.

The Times says West Ham are interested in Mexican striker Santiago Gimenez, who Feyenoord value at £30million. The 22-year-old has scored 18 goals in 16 Eredivisie games this season.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Jack Clarke: Football London reports West Ham and Crystal Palace are interested in Sunderland’s 23-year-old forward who is valued at around £20million.

Victor Osimhen: Senior figures at Real Madrid believe the club should sign the 25-year-old Napoli striker instead of Paris St Germain’s Kylian Mbappe, according to Football Transfers.

Napoli keeper Alex Meret saved Matteo Pessina’s second-half penalty to ensure the Serie A title-holders walked away with a point as they played out a disappointing goalless draw with Monza.

Amir Rrahmani could have given the hosts the lead after the break but wasted a free header, and while Meret made the vital stop to preserve the draw he was worryingly forced off soon after.

Napoli boss Walter Mazzarri was sent off while his side’s finishing woes were highlighted by substitute Gianluca Gaetano’s inability to find the back of the net when in acres of space just outside the six-yard box.

The visitors, who saw Mirko Maric dismissed late in stoppage time, mustered few further chances and would be happy with the point, while the hosts extended their poor run of form at the Maradona Stadium.

Mazzarri was without the suspended Victor Osimhen and Matteo Politano, both of whom were sent off against Roma last time out.

Frank Anguissa had a deflected effort comfortably saved while at the other end of the pitch Meret looked on relieved when Pedro Pereira’s early attempt took a deflection before sailing narrowly past his left post.

The hosts had found a slightly stronger foothold by the halfway point in the first period but neither keeper found himself with much work to do.

Giacomo Raspadori nodded wide and Napoli were nearly ahead just before half-time, when an excellent Mario Rui cross found Anguissa in an ideal position but he was only able to direct his effort – easily the best chance of the first half – straight at keeper Michele Di Gregorio.

There was a second-half change for Raffaele Palladino with Samuele Birindelli coming on to replace Pereira, who had been booked, with Napoli wasting an early free-kick near the corner flag.

Rrahmani then somehow sent a free header over the crossbar from Piotr Zielinski’s delivery before Raspadori sent the ball skipping across the face of goal from a tight angle.

Valentin Carboni scuffed an effort for the visitors and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia came close for Napoli, nutmegging the Monza keeper who subsequently smothered the ball before Birindelli forced Meret into his first real save.

While Napoli had looked likelier to score since before half-time, it was Monza who won the best chance after Jesus was penalised for handball inside the penalty area, Pessina stepping up but squandering the spot-kick as Meret proved alert to his intentions.

Meret’s evening worryingly came to a close after 74 minutes and, with Pierluigi Gollini a last-minute absentee from the matchday squad due to an left ankle issue, on came Nikita Contini, while Giorgio Cittadini would soon replace the injured Danilo D’Ambrosio for the visitors.

Mazzarri, who had previously been booked, was sent off after he got involved in a touchline scuffle, while Rui, Kvaratskhelia and finally Gaetano seemed only able to direct efforts directly at the keeper as they ran out of time to find a winner.

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