Napoli fell to a 3-1 defeat to Udinese on Sunday, with Gonzalo Higuain being sent off to add insult to injury as their Serie A title charge fell apart.
Bruno Fernandes had given the hosts the lead in the first half, only for Higuain to smash home a stunning effort to get his side back level.
However, the Udinese midfielder struck for the second time in the encounter with this brilliant effort, as he kept his composure and volleyed home with Napoli goalkeeper Gabriel out of position.
It was a bitter blow for the Partenopei as they were already under pressure following Juventus’s win over Empoli on Saturday, which moved Massimiliano Allegri’s side six points clear of their Scudetto rivals.
While Napoli did push forward in search of an equaliser after the interval, Cyril Thereau added to their misery with a third goal for the Zebrette who are still battling to stay in the division.
However, arguably the biggest blow of the day for Napoli was suffered later in the second half as Higuain was given his marching orders for lashing out at Felipe.
The Argentine striker will now be suspended in the coming weeks, and given that he had moved to 30 goals for the season with his earlier strike, it remains to be seen how his teammates cope with his absence.
Napoli won’t give up all hope of winning the league title this season with seven games remaining, but following the blow on Sunday coupled with Juve’s form, it doesn’t appear likely that they will be able to turn their deficit around.
Allegri still has two tricky away trips to manage against AC Milan and Fiorentina, but Napoli also have to travel to Inter and Roma before the season is over.
As a result, it is difficult to see how Sarri’s men will fight their way back, particularly without Higuain, with Juve undoubtedly now in the driving seat to secure what would be a fifth consecutive Scudetto.