Stadio San Paolo,
15th December 2013; 19:45 GMT
Napoli host Inter at the Stadio San Paolo this weekend in what promises to a truly intriguing battles between to old foes of Italian Football. The Partonopei have been inconsistent domestically off-late, winning just 2 out of their last 5 top-flight fixtures whereas the Nerazzurri are in desperate search of three points, after going winless in the Serie A for more than a month. Napoli come into this fixture on the back of a bitter-sweet result against Arsenal in the Champions League whereas the visiting team face the prospect of falling even further behind in the race for Champions League qualification having picked just three points from their last three games.
Team news and tactics
After starting the campaign on the front foot, Rafa Benitez’ men have somewhat fallen off the pace domestically. Lapses in concentration and inconsistency have plagued the Partenopei in recent weeks and the mixed bag in terms of form and results has seen last season’s runners up fall five points behind second placed Roma and eight behind current leaders Juventus. The early season talk about being Scudetto contenders has vanished into thin air, leaving Champions League qualification a priority for the Napoletano.
On the injury front, Napoli have been deterred by the injury to skipper Marek Hamsik and left back Juan Zuniga, both of whom are integral to Benitez’ first team setup and the long term absence of Giandomenico Mesto due to a cruciate injury is another set-back in terms of squad depth. The arrival of Anthony Reveillere has added depth to the full-back department, but the lack of the French international’s fitness and sharpness having been out of contract since summer is an area of concern for Benitez.
The Partenopei are likely to shape-up in the 4-4-1-1 formation, with Goran Pandev playing as the withdrawn striker behind Gonzalo Higuain, who is slowly finding his fitness and form at Naples. Jose Callejon and Dries Mertens are likely to start on the wings ahead of Lorenzo Insigne, who is most likely to come on as a super-sub as and when required. Gokhan Inler and Valon Behrami are likely to continue their successful partnership in central midfield and an injury hampered back four is likely to feature Raul Albiol and Miguel Britos as the center-backs, alongside Christian Maggio and Pablo Armero as the over-lapping fullbacks.
Probable Starting XI(4-4-1-1) : Reina (GK); Maggio; Albiol; Britos; Armero; Inler; Behrami; Callejon; Mertens; Pandev; Higuain
The Nerazzurri are currently on an eight game unbeaten run since tasting defeat at the hands of Roma at the San Siro, although the yield from these fixtures has not been particularly impressive. Despite dominating major portions of their recent games, Walter Mazzarri’s men have been unable to find that killer instinct to convert performances into results to take all three points.
The Italian tactician feels that part of the misfortune of conceding late goals is down to luck and the lack of maturity –
“”I expect us to take our game up another level and my players to give 100 per cent at all times,” he told reporters on Saturday. “I want us to win every game in style.
“We’ve collected fewer points than our performances deserve, we still have to mature.”
Diego Milito’s fate with injuries continue as the Argentinian striker is unavailable for the weekend’s trip to the San Paolo. Mauro Icardi has started training but the youngster is still a couple of weeks away from first team action, whereas Javier Zanetti is expected to miss out on a place in the XI despite being fully fit. The starting XI is likely to mirror those of last week’s draw at the San Siro. The back three of Hugo Campagnaro, Juan Jesus and Andrea Ranocchia are unlikely to be shuffled. Jonathan, who has been a revelation down the right will probably get the nod ahead of Zanetti whereas Yuto Nagatomo is likely to start down the left. The central midfield quarter of Esteban Cambiasso, Stephan Taider, Freddy Guarin and Ricardo Alvarez are all expected to start with Guarin taking up the advanced role behind Rodrigo Palacio, the top scorer for the Nerazzurri this season with 9 goals.
Probable Starting XI(3-5-1-1) : Handanovic (GK); Jonathan; Campagnaro; Ranocchia; Juan; Nagatomo; Cambiasso; Taider; Alvarez; Guarin; Palacio
- Napoli are undefeated against Inter in the last 9 home games in all competitions
- There have been over 2.5 goals scored in 5 of Napoli’s last 6 fixtures
- The Partenopei are undefeated in 17 of their last 18 home games domestically.
Players to watch out for
Rodrigo Palacio( Internazionale)
The Argentinian striker has been among the standout performers of the Serie A this season, notching up 9 goals and 5 assists in 14 appearances so far.A lethal finisher, Palacio has the ability to bring his team-mates into play or take it all the way himself and Rafa Benitez must do his homework to stop the Inter #8 who can on his day be a match-winner for the Nerazzurri.
Napoli 2-2 Inter
Given the longer periods of recovery, Walter Mazzarri’s men are in better shape physically as well as mentally coming into this fixture. However, Napoli have the momentum by side having beaten a strong Arsenal side convincingly in midweek. With strikers of both teams in a good run of form, expect a few goals to be scored and a richly entertaining game in all. Little separating both the teams, I foresee a high scoring draw.