Juventus powers past Empoli, Atalanta can aim for Champions League after beating Napoli

The bar has been raised at Atalanta.

Not only is the provincial squad dreaming of a place in Europe but it has the Champions League within its sights after winning at Napoli 2-0 on Saturday to move to within three points of the third-placed side in Serie A.

Defender Mattia Caldara again stole the show with a goal in each half. Atalanta midfielder Franck Kessie was sent off moments before Caldara's second, following two bookings in quick succession.

It ended Napoli's run of 14 league matches without defeat.

Inter Milan can move back level with Atalanta with a win over second-placed Roma on Sunday. Victory would make the race for a place in Europe's elite club competition wide open.

Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini admitted last week that a win against Napoli would change his side's objectives, and that new aim will be tested in its next two matches against Fiorentina and Inter.

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Atalanta's achievement is even more impressive given that it relies mainly on young, homegrown talent.

Caldara, who was signed by Juventus last month but loaned back to Atalanta until 2018, is only 22, while Andrea Petagna, Andrea Conti and Alberto Grassi are the same age or younger. They all came through the youth ranks together at the Bergamo-based club.

Petagna scored in a 1-0 win over Napoli this season, but since October Napoli had lost only one match, at Real Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League last 16.

Napoli hit the crossbar twice in the first half, and Atalanta reached halftime up 1-0 after a corner bounced through to Caldara and he nodded it in.

Atalanta continued to press although its chances of getting a second appeared to diminish when Kessie was sent off in the 67th. But Caldara doubled his tally three minutes later, volleying Leonardo Spinazzola's dinked cross into the bottom left corner.

Napoli fought to get back into the match and Jose Callejon should have done better but headed wide from point-blank range.


Juventus continued its march to an unprecedented sixth successive title as it moved 10 points clear in Serie A. But beating struggling Empoli was more difficult than expected.

Juventus, which had beaten Porto 2-0 midweek in the Champions League, rested several key players ahead of the first leg of its Italian Cup semifinal against Napoli on Tuesday, but still extended its Serie A record to 30 consecutive home wins.

Mario Mandzukic, who wasted pportunities in the first half, helped to break the deadlock in the 52nd as his header from Juan Cuadrado's cross was finger-tipped onto the underside of the bar by Lukasz Skorupski but bounced down and over the line.

The goal was initially credited to Mandzukic but was later changed to an own goal by the Empoli goalkeeper.

Juventus doubled its tally 13 minutes later when Dani Alves' cross came through to Alex Sandro and he swivelled before firing it across into the bottom right corner.

Empoli remained 18th, eight points above the relegation zone.

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