Walter Mazzarri feels Napoli can use qualification for the knockout stage of the Champions League to kickstart their Serie A camapign.

The Partenopei host Cagliari on Saturday in sixth place, well off the pace in their Scudetto defence.

Since marking his return to Napoli a month ago with victory at Atalanta, Mazzarri has seen his side lose back-to-back Serie A games against rivals Inter and Juventus.

However, after beating Braga 2-0 on Tuesday night at Stadio Maradona to progress behind Group C winners Real Madrid, Mazzarri believes his side can move forwards as he prepares to face one of his former clubs.

“Now another match awaits us that we must try to win against Cagliari, and also to get answers on the growth and path we are on,” said Mazzarri, who left Cagliari just before the end of a disappointing 2021-2022 campaign.

“We are heartened by this result (against Braga) and also aware that Napoli can still express themselves at high levels.”

Napoli captain Giovanni Di Lorenzo maintains the squad are fully behind Mazzarri.

“Certainly we have to grow and improve. We have been seeing positive signs since the new cycle with Mazzarri began,” defender Di Lorenzo said, quoted on Napoli’s official club website.

“We are working hard and we want to give everything for this shirt because the season is still long.”

Napoli look set to be without midfielder Elif Elmas, who did not take part in Friday’s training session as he manages as thigh problem.

Cagliari boss Claudio Ranieri is looking to build some momentum of their own in a bid to pull clear of the relegation zone after beating rivals Sassuolo with two goals in stoppage time at Unipol Domus on Monday night.

Ranieri, though, knows just what challenge is in front of them as the 72-year-old returns to one of his former clubs.

“Mazzarri has given the team back its dimension, with combinations at a thousand-miles per hour, great players and the ability to solve problems from one moment to the next,” Ranieri said.

“We will have to play a great game and have to come in at our best right away, which we failed to do against Sassuolo.”

Claudio Ranieri

Ranieri told a press conference: “I hope the last victory will give us even more awareness, knowing that we have to be focused at all times to make up for any shortcomings we may show.

“If we all help each other and make a little effort to focus, then we will still improve.”

On Friday afternoon, Cagliari announced forward Eldor Shomurodov was set for a spell on the sidelines. Scans confirmed a fracture of the second metatarsal in his right foot following a “blunt trauma” sustained during training.