Written By Onyeka Daniel
At the Diego Armando Maradona stadium, defending champions of the Serie A, Napoli will welcome Scudetto favorites, Inter Milan to their home stadium with referee, Davide Massa put in charge of proceedings from the centre. Napoli won the Scudetto last season on the back of a consistent performance, something which has really been missing for them this season as they struggled for consistency.
This ultimately cost Rudi Garcia his job and Walter Mazzarri was brought back in on a temporary basis to steady the shop and at least secure a top four finish. For this encounter, Player fatigue and squad rotation in the Champions League could play a big role in deciding the result, with the Nerazzurri having the upper hand. Both Inter and Napoli are now right in the thick of an intensely demanding fixture list.
Whilst Juventus are able to rest up during the week given the absence of European football, for the Nerazzurri and the Partenopei, there is a need to juggle two games a week in European competition. Therefore, player fatigue from playing every few days can become a factor. Napoli host Inter in a league match with major potential title decider and the Champions League has not necessarily affected the two teams in equal ways.
For Inter, there was an opportunity to rotate extensively in their last European match. The Nerazzurri faced Benfica away in a match where they did not need a result to reach the round of sixteen. Inter already qualified for the knockouts. Therefore, many players from the fringe of Inter’s squad got the nod in a wild 3-3 draw. And conversely, numerous key starters rested from the first minute.
This naturally entails that Inter have not theoretically suffered as much in terms of player fatigue as they would have in the event that they played a full-strength team in Lisbon. For Napoli, it was a different situation, though. The Partneopei have yet to clinch their spot in the round of sixteen of Europe’s top club competition. Therefore, coach Walter Mazzarri played something close to his strongest eleven against Real Madrid on Wednesday.
This could mean that Inter will be the fresher of the two sides tomorrow. But the home side will be banking on their good home record against their opponent. They can do a double win over Inter for the first time since 2016/17, following a 3-1 win here last season.
There couldn’t be a better venue than Stadio Diego Armando Maradona to achieve this feat, where Napoli have lost just one of their last 17 home top-flight head to head game against the Nerazzurri, although a five game winless run at home remains a concern, including a shock loss to Empoli at this same venue, but under a different manager.
For Inter, history beckons as they have a chance to score in 11 consecutive Serie A games for the first time since the 1950s. Their recent form suggests this is within their grasp, especially with their excellent away record and red hot Lautaro Martinez leading the line alongside Marcus Thuram in attack. The current leader of the Capocannoniere race has been very effective in away fixtures scoring and by extension, the team’s good performance away from home.
The Nerazzurri also has the league-best defensive record of seven goals conceded this season, giving them a distinct advantage at the back, but with absence of Bastoni and Pavard, coupled with the return of Osimhen, it’s going to be a real test of character for Francesco Acerbi and co at the back.
Inter Milan are undefeated in their last seven Serie A matches. In fact, they have suffered just a single defeat from their first 18 appearances across all competitions, keeping the highest number of clean sheets this Serie A season (8), and they have also won nine of their last 11 Serie A games, but one of the failures was a defeat to Napoli.
Style Of Play
With Mazzarri’s return, the team’s 4-3-3 formation continues. The only uncertainty is at left-backs where they are facing an injury crisis as Mathias Olivera was stretchered off in the first half of their win at Atalanta, joining Mario Rui on the sidelines. Juan Jesus is the likely player to come in given his versatility, while Amir Rrahmani and Natan are set to start in the centre.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo, meanwhile, is a guaranteed starter at right-back. The midfield is pretty much certain with the only doubt being Piotr Zielinski and Eljaf Elmas ready to replace him if the need arise. For Simone Inzaghi, the 3-5-2 formation is a constant and a wholesome change from the team that played against Benfica is expected. In defense, Damian should line up in the right centre-back role while Denzel Dumfries will take his place at the right wing-back.
In midfield, Kristjan Asllani, Davide Frattesi, Davy Klaassen and Carlos Augusto will make way for Nicolo Barella, Hakan Calhanoglu, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Federico Dimarco. The Turkish playmaker will operate at the heart of Inter’s midfield, looking to instigate his side’s build-up and circulate the ball around the field while also joining up in attack occasionally.
Napoli in their last 20 games played across all competitions have 11 wins, 5 losses and 4 draws. Since October, they’ve failed to win two straight matches after losing to Real Madrid in the UCL, they will be keen to avoid two straight losses. For Inter, in their last 20 games played across all competitions, they’ve 15 wins, 1 loss and 4 draws. In fact, they’ve drawn their last two games against Juventus (1-1) and that comeback against Benfica in the UCL (3-3). Before then, they had been on a 6 game winning streak and will be keen to start another winning run, starting from this game.
Head To Head
In their last 20 matches played against each other, Inter have a slight edge over their host with 8 wins as against 6 wins for the home side while 6 has ended in a draw. Last season, Inter won 1-0 at home before Napoli won the reverse fixture 3-1 at the same ground that they will be meeting for this clash.
Players To Watch
Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia will be leading the attack for the Partenopei and they will be looking to revive the spark that helped them win the Serie A title last season, but against a the most in form duo of Lautaro Martinez and Marcus Thuram, it’s going to be a joy to watch, especially for the neutrals.
Napoli Possible Starting Lineup: Meret; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Natan, Jesus; Anguissa, Lobotka, Elmas; Politano, Osimhen, Kvaratskhelia
Inter Milan Possible Starting Lineup: Sommer; Darmian, De Vrij, Acerbi; Dumfries, Barella, Calhanoglu, Mkhitaryan, Dimarco; Thuram, Martinez
Injuries And Suspensions
The home side will be without their two left-backs, Mario Ruiz and Mathias Olivera. For Inter, they will be missing Benjamin Pavard and Alessandro Bastoni in defense too. Osimhen has been making appearances from the bench, but should start for this game while Jesper Lindstrom has also recovered and should make the bench at least.
Should probably end in a draw or a slight win for Inter if they can convert their chances. (0-0 or 0-2).
Do you have a story tip?
Kindly Email: email@example.com