Rome, Jan. 23: Napoli further extended their grip on the Serie A title race on Saturday by beating local rivals Salernitana 2-0 to temporarily move 12 points ahead of the chasing pack.
Goals from Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Victor Osimhen immediately either side of half-time made sure that Napoli will be at least nine points clear at the halfway point of the season after a straight-forward win in soaking Salerno.
Luciano Spalletti's side now have to wait until their closest rivals AC Milan take on Champions League-chasing Lazio in Rome on Tuesday to know just how far in front they will be after collecting 50 points in 19 matches.
That is a remarkable return for a club which allowed important players to leave in the summer and whose fans were in open revolt against owner Aurelio De Laurentiis. "We've had a great first half of the season. We lost so many big players in the close season but managed to bring together a new group which has started really strongly," Di Lorenzo told DAZN.
Inter Milan are a further point behind their city rivals and will move provisionally into second place if they beat Empoli on Monday. Napoli do not have to worry about Juventus who had been ahead of Inter on goal difference but were docked 15 points on Friday for illicit use of transfers to boost their balance sheet.
Save the ruling being overturned on appeal later this year, Juve are out of the race, making Napoli's bid for a first league crown since 1990 that much simpler.
Atletico Madrid produced one of their best performances of the season to defeat Real Valladolid 3-0 on Saturday, with Memphis Depay making his debut.
Real Sociedad, third, continued their fine form with a 2-0 win at Rayo Vallecano, while struggling Sevilla snatched a 1-0 win over Cadiz with a late Ivan Rakitic penalty.
Atletico's new Dutch forward Depay, signed from Barcelona on Friday, came off the bench in the second half but by then Antoine Griezmann's virtuoso display had the hosts in full control at the Metropolitano.
The French forward produced a sublime assist for Alvaro Morata to open the scoring and then struck the second himself.
Mario Hermoso netted the third from the rebound after his header from Griezmann's free-kick was parried back into his path. Those three goals in an 11-minute spell in the first half wrapped up the points for fourth-placed Atletico.
Diego Simeone's team have endured a tough season both in the league and also in Europe, where they were eliminated, but earned a second win in seven league games to get heading back in the right direction.
On Thursday they face rivals Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals, important both as a derby but also their last realistic chance of silverware this season.
"I'm very happy, very pleased with the team's performance," Griezmann told DAZN.
"We have been doing well since the World Cup, playing with intensity, hard work, having chances up front, but we lacked a goal.
Earlier Espanyol earned a 1-0 win over Real Betis thanks to Martin Braithwaite's strike.
Newcastle goes third
Liverpool and Chelsea did little for their chances of climbing into the Premier League's top four with an uninspiring 0-0 draw as Newcastle went third after another goalless draw at Crystal Palace on Saturday.
In a repeat of last season's League and FA Cup finals, which Liverpool won on penalties after 0-0 draws, neither side could break the deadlock at Anfield to remain 10 points off the top four.
Chelsea did have the ball in the net early on, but Kai Havertz's strike was ruled out for offside after a VAR review.
Jarrod Bowen struck twice in the first half as West Ham won 2-0 at the London Stadium to move out of the bottom three thanks to their first win in eight league games.
An 11th defeat in 14 matches puts more pressure on Frank Lampard's position as Everton boss.
Leicester secured their first point since the World Cup break but were denied a vital win by a late Brighton equaliser in a 2-2 draw at the King Power.
Bournemouth dropped into the bottom three despite ending a run of six consecutive defeats with a 1-1 draw against Nottingham Forest.
Southampton remain rooted to the foot of the table after a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa that was disrupted by a drone flying above the stadium. (AFP)