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Cannavaro eager to play again

25 January 2013-PA Sport

Napoli defender Paolo Cannavaro will make an emotional return to action at Parma this weekend, as the Azzurri looks to take advantage of any slip-up from Serie A leader Juventus.

Cannavaro and fellow defender Gianluca Grava spent a month on the sidelines after being issued with six-month bans for failing to report attempted match-fixing, with Napoli being deducted two points.

But those punishments were overturned on appeal last week and both players were unused substitutes for Napoli's 1-1 draw at Fiorentina.

Cannavaro finally returns to action at the Stadio Ennio Tardini, where he turned out for seven years, and is raring to go.

He told La Repubblica: "I left a lot of friends there and I have great memories of my time in Gialloblu. But it won't be easy for us.

"(Head coach Roberto) Donadoni has done some great work there and he has given the team such a strong identity that they've yet to lose at the Tardini.

"I really can't wait to play again. I've been training more than ever and I'm ready."

Recalling the day he heard the news of his ban, he added: "I was watching a film with my wife and kids, then at one point I changed the channel.

"Sky were announcing Napoli's punishment. I thought things had been looking good so I reacted to the news by bursting into tears.

"I suffered an injustice but Grava and I came out of it clean. There is no black mark on our careers and that is the important thing."

Juventus leads the current standings by five points but anything less than a win over Genoa on could allow Napoli and Lazio to close the gap.

"I hope we can keep attacking the top end of the table," Cannavaro added. "I realised Fiorentina were scared of us and that means we have become stronger.

"We will stay in Juventus' wake, ready to take advantage of any misstep by the Bianconeri."

Juve - which will sign Fernando Llorente from Athletic Bilbao in July - welcomes Genoa to Turin, as the Rossoblu starts life under its third head coach of the season.

Davide Ballardini replaced Luigi Delneri at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris as a result of the latter's record of nine defeats from 13 games, which leaves Genoa in the relegation places.

Lazio, meanwhile, held Juve to a creditable 1-1 draw in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final and aims to keep pace with the Italian champion with a positive result over Chievo.

AC Milan continued its resurgence with a 2-1 victory over Bologna that took it above Roma and into sixth place, with a potential win at Atalanta promising fifth place should Fiorentina falter at eighth-placed Catania.

La Viola boss Vincenzo Montella takes his new club to Sicily for the first time since leaving the Stadio Angelo Massimino in the northern summer. The two sides are separated by only three places and four points in the top half of the table.

Inter Milan bids to get back on track after Wesley Sneijder's departure for Galatasaray, having picked up just one win from five games.

The Nerazzurri has now fallen nine points shy of Juventus and the Old Lady's city rival Torino provides Andrea Stramaccioni with another stern test, having won three games from its last four.

Elsewhere, Roma hopes to avenge an early season defeat to Bologna, while Cagliari faces struggling Palermo, which has recruited Mauro Formica from Blackburn Rovers.

Siena is plotting to register back-to-back wins for the first time since September, at the expense of Udinese, with Sampdoria hosting Pescara at the Marassi.

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