Alessandro Nesta says the Serie A title race is over after Gonzalo Higuain was sent-off during Napoli's defeat to Udinese on Sunday.
Higuain - who had scored a first-half equaliser at the Friuli - was dismissed after 75 minutes during the 3-1 defeat, the Argentina international subsequently banned for four matches after putting his hands on referee Massimiliano Irrati on his way off the pitch.
With only seven games remaining of the season the suspension will deplete Napoli's striker options, and Nesta feels that hands the Scudetto to leaders Juventus, who are six points clear at the top.
"The championship is already decided, especially after Napoli's loss and the suspension of Higuain," Nesta told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"I said as much at the end of the summer, even though their initial difficulties made me think. Juventus are the strongest side."
Meanwhile, Nesta's former club AC Milan have fallen away in their quest to return to European football next season after no win in four matches.
Pressure is reportedly beginning to build on coach Sinisa Mihajlovic, but the former Italy international believes the San Siro hierarchy should keep faith with the Serbian coach.
He added: "I've said this before, the coaches should never take 100 per cent of the blame. It's been a bad year that can be saved only with a victory in the Coppa Italia.
"But I wouldn't fire the coach, or they'll have to start everything again. It's clear that there are other problems too."