Stadio San Paolo, Naples
Sunday 12th April, 2015, 15:00 GMT
Napoli and Fiorentina meet at the Stadio San Paolo in Serie A on Sunday aiming to get over equally painful Coppa Italia exits. Both sides entered their respective semi-final ties looking good for progression, but the duo eventually missed out on a June final showdown after losing their second-leg fixtures to Lazio and Juventus respectively. Both sides come into the fixture with faint hopes of a Champions League berth next season. The Partenopei arrive at this weekenda s fixture with a 1-0 away loss to Roma, their fourth consecutive defeat away from home. It was a loss characteristic of many this season for the club – chances were created but in the end a leaky defence was the difference maker. Now in sixth on 47 points, Napoli cannot afford any more slip-ups. But with only two points earned in their last five League matches, their Viola test will surely be difficult. Benitez will look to make five changes to the side that lost to Roma, with Lorenzo Insigne making his first start back from his lengthy injury. Beniteza s heavy rotation is due to his side taking on Wolfsburg in Europa League play later in the week.
Fiorentina have been in far better form than Napoli, but they will also head into Sunday’s match following a crushing cup defeat. They had gone into the second leg of their Coppa Italia last-four meeting with Juventus as the favourites to reach the final after an impressive 2-1 victory in Turin. However, they were left stunned as the Bianconeri played them off the pitch and ran out 3-0 winners. It was a cruel blow for Vincenzo Montella’s side, but there is still plenty for them to play for in the remaining weeks of the season. A win for either side would help put pressure on Lazio and Roma.
Team news and tactical brief
In the last six weeks, a promising season has turned into nothing short of a disaster for Napoli. They were firm favourites to finish inside the top three and land a place a place in the Champions League, but a five-game winless run has seen them slip down to sixth in the Serie A table. It is not just their league form that has suffered, as this week they were dumped out of the Coppa Italia following a late defeat in their semi-final against Lazio.
They still have the chance of winning a trophy this season, but with Wolfsburg to play in the quarter-finals of the Europe League they are by no means certain of progressing further in the tournament. Their poor run of form has led to fevered speculation that Rafael Benitez will leave the club at the end of the season and with the Spaniard out of contract in the summer a parting of ways seems increasingly likely. Long-term injury victim Michu is unlikely to feature for the Neapolitans, but playmaker Lorenzo Insigne could be handed his first start since making a welcome comeback from cruciate ligament damage as a substitute last Saturday. Rafa Benitez may rotate after their Coppa Italia fixture, primarily in the supporting trio behind Gonzalo Higuain. It would be no surprise from the Spanish coach to drop Higuain as well, but the need for points will probably keep him on the pitch despite fatigue.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Andujar(Gk); Albiol, Strinic, Koulibaly, Maggio; Gargano, David Lopez; Hamsik, Gabbiadini, Jose Callejon; Higuain
Fiorentina Coach Vincenzo Montella will also look to rotate his squad ahead of European duties, making six changes. The Viola are coming off of a crucial 2-0 victory – Coppa Italia disappointment notwithstanding – over Champions League hopefuls Sampdoria. Once again, Mohamed Salah was in the limelight, scoring the second goal. The imminent return of Viola star Giuseppe Rossi may have to wait a little longer, but club captain Manuel Pasqual has a fair chance of making an appearance. Additionally, their extra daya s rest after the Coppa Italia semis may well prove to be a slight advantage for Montellaa s men.
Ita s also worth noting that Fiorentina have scored 10 times from corners so far this campaign, which is second only to Atletico Madrid across the recognised five-best European leagues. Vincenzo Montella will almost certainly look to exploit a porous opposition defence from set-pieces, as Napoli have conceded the highest total goals of any side within Serie Aa s top-nine positions. Vincenzo Montella should adapt his team and switch to a 4-man defence. Khouma Babacar is favourite over Mario Gomez and Alberto Gilardino to start up front.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3):Neto(Gk); Richards, Rodriguez, Basanta, Pasqual; Badelj, Fernandez, Borja Valero; Salah, Babacar, Diamanti
- Napoli are undefeated in 12 of their last 13 home matches in Serie A.
- Fiorentina are undefeated in 11 of their last 12 matches in Serie A.
- Napoli are undefeated in 9 of their last 10 matches against Fiorentina in all competitions.
Players to Watch Out For
Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli)
The Neapolitan attacker was injured in the reverse fixture of the match and will be looking for redemption. Hea ll threaten Fiorentina with tricky feints down the left flank and shots from outside the box.
Mohamed Salah (Fiorentina)
The Egyptian will be the man to watch out for after an impressive start to his career in Italy with seven goals in 12 games for the club since his loan move from Chelsea.
Napoli 2a 2 Fiorentina
Napoli have managed to collect only 2 points from their last 5 games and they threw away the edge they had over Lazio after the first leg of the Coppa Italia semi final by losing at home and crashing out of the competition. Fiorentina were eliminated as well despite the 1-goal lead they they had over Juventus and the Viola’s season is now similar to Napoli’s. Both will play the Europa League quarter finals while trying to finish in the top-6 of Serie A. All in all, Napoli played better than Fiorentina in their second leg Coppa Italia fixture having played out a very balanced game. But the Viola are on a better run of form, and a very tough fixture list could justify the team’s failure to perform in a game or two. The San Paolo may balance out Fiorentina’s better form, but at the same time the unhappy Napoli fans could put pressure on their own team.
Blast From the Past
Fiorentina recorded a 1-0 win over Napoli last year at the Stadio San Paolo to all but end the Partenopei’s lingering hopes of the title.