Garcia on the brink after floundering Napoli fall to lowly Empoli

Rudi Garcia’s position as Napoli coach is under threat after defeat to Empoli (Carlo HERMANN)

Rudi Garcia is reportedly on the verge of being sacked after his Napoli team fell on Sunday to a shock 1-0 home defeat to Empoli which left the Serie A champions already well off the pace in this season’s title race.

Napoli were loudly booed off by fans at the Stadio Maradona after Viktor Kovalenko’s superb last-minute strike snatched the points for Empoli, leaving Napoli eight points behind provisional league leaders Juventus and looking over their shoulders at pretenders to the Champions League positions.

No-one from the club spoke to the media after yet another poor display on home turf from fourth-placed Napoli, who have not won a fixture in Naples since the end of September, and Frenchman Garcia’s position is now under serious threat.

Napoli will be 10 points from the summit after just 12 matches if in-form Inter Milan beat Frosinone at the San Siro in Sunday’s late match and they have a fiendish run of games after the international break against Atalanta, Real Madrid, Inter and Juventus.

It has been a troubling opening few months to the current campaign in which the enthusiasm of last season’s thrilling first Scudetto in over three decades has dissipated.

Garcia took over from title-winning coach Luciano Spalletti in the summer but his position is already being questioned, and owner Aurelio De Laurentiis was visibly irritated in the stands by a poor performance against Empoli who lifted themselves out of the relegation zone.

Injured star striker Victor Osimhen also appeared bemused by what he was seeing as Garcia switched up his team with less than stellar results.

– Napoli’s home blues –

Garcia won Ligue 1 with Lille in 2011 but his stock has fallen dramatically since being sacked by Roma in early 2016.

The 59-year-old was fired from his previous job at Al Nassr in April not long after the Saudi Arabian club signed Cristiano Ronaldo in a deal worth tens of millions of dollars.

He was previously a losing Europa League finalist with Marseille in 2018 and took Lyon to the semi-finals of the Champions League two years later.

Napoli would have moved above AC Milan with a win but Empoli goalkeeper Etrit Berisha was in good form, pulling off two superb early stops from Matteo Politano and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and denying substitute Khvicha Kvaratskhelia late on, before Kovalenko’s shock winner.

Napoli’s home record is the 15th best in the league and is in stark contrast to their performances on the road where they are unbeaten in all competitions and have won six from eight fixtures.

Three defeats in six league home matches is already more than last season’s total but didn’t lead to them losing their place in Italy’s top four.

Atalanta missed their chance to take fourth from Napoli but avoided defeat as Ederson snatched a 1-1 draw at Udinese in stoppage time, leaving Gian Piero Gasperini’s side just a point back in fifth.

Sixth-placed Fiorentina trail Atalanta on goal difference thanks to a 2-1 home win over Bologna, who sit seventh after falling to their second defeat of an impressive campaign so far.

Roma can draw level on 20 points with Atalanta and Fiorentina if they beat Lazio in the season’s first Rome derby.



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