Stadio San Paolo, Naples
Sunday 8th March, 2015, 19:45 GMT
Champions League chasers Napoli will be aiming to bounce back from defeat to Torino as they welcome Inter. The Partenopei have managed to close the gap on second-placed Roma to four points after going on a positive run of just two defeats in six matches, and are now serious contenders to challenge Rudi Garciaa s side for the runner-up spot. Rafael Benitez has declared his unhappiness after slipping 13 points adrift of leaders Juventus, but considering the injuries the squad has had to deal with, it has to be said they have done quite well. With the likes of Lorenzo Insigne and Juan Zuniga having been sidelined through injury, Napoli have still managed to create a number of chances in their fixtures and have played some attractive football. It is a positive that Benitez did touch on after last weeka s 1-0 defeat to Torino, and he and his squad will feel confident with the knowledge that the injured duo will return to the set-up soon.
The management at Inter may have changed with the arrival of Roberto Mancini but results have scarcely improved; inconsistency has reigned this season with three wins and three defeats in the last six games perfectly summing up the campaign so far. Inter sit ninth in Serie A on 35 points after a 1-0 home defeat to Fiorentina last weeked, and are ten points behind Sundaya s hosts who currently occupy the third place that the Nerazzurri so crave for Champions League qualification.
Team news and tactical brief
Napoli themselves have been plagued by inconsistency, with losses to the likes of Torino and Palermo leaving them just two points clear of the chasing pack, but the Vesuviani have won seven of their last 10 league games and their only draw since early December came in Wednesdaya s Coppa Italia semi-final first leg at Lazio. Rafa Beniteza s side have the worst defence in the top eight having shipped 31 goals this season, and Sundaya s fixture could bring goals with two of Serie Aa s most prolific Argentines going head to head in Mauro Icardi and Gonzalo Higuain, who have 14 and 12 goals each respectively. Both coaches are set to make changes to their teams with Faouzi Ghoulam and Gokhan Inler for Ivan Strinic and David Lopez expected to be Napolia s only two changes from the side that lost at Torino last Sunday.
Rafael Benitez’s side had started 2015 in impressive style, but losses at Palermo and Torino have seen Napoli fall back towards the chasing pack, who are now within a win of stealing third place. Napoli will still have ambitions to overtake Roma, but failure to defeat Inter at Stadio San Paolo could see Lazio replace them in the Champions League spots. Changes could be made after last weekend’s setback at Torino, with Gokhan Inler and Manolo Gabbiadini both in contention to start against the Nerazzurri. Jose Callejon and Marek Hamsik only played a short time in the Coppa Italia match, so they are expected to start here.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Andujar(Gk); Albiol, Strinic, Koulibaly, Maggio; Inler, David Lopez; Hamsik, Gabbiadini, Jose Callejon; Higuain
Inter saw their impressive unbeaten run end when they lost to an in-form Fiorentina side last weekend. Roberto Mancinia s men have certainly been one of the more impressive sides in the League since the turn of the year, and have undoubtedly seen their form boosted by the presence of Xherdan Shaqiri in the team. The Swiss international has formed such a formidable partnership with Mauri Icardi and Rodrigo Palacio that big name January signing, Lucas Podolski, has struggled for time on the pitch. The Germana s form has suffered such a blow that he was voted one of the worst Serie A January signings by Gazzetta dello Sport a a label which he will be desperate to cast aside. This encounter is one for the books as both teams have been enjoying their football of late, and both will be eager to bounce back from last weekenda s defeats.
Inter look likely to make three changes from the disappointing defeat to the Viola last time out with captain Andrea Ranocchia set to replace Nemanja Vidic, and Xherdan Shaqiri and Rodrigo Palacio ready to replace the disappointing Mateo Kovacic and Lukas Podolski. Last week’s performance could have been hindered with Xherdan Shaqiri dropping out of the starting lineup, with the Swiss winger having been influential since his arrival from Bayern Munich in January. He will return to the side, likely in place of the under-fire Lukas Podolski, while Rodrigo Palacio may also be included in the team. Lukas Podolski has received some criticism in recent weeks and may be dropped to the bench by Roberto Mancini. Rodrigo Palacio should play up front alongside Mauro Icardi.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-1-2): Handanovic(Gk); Ranocchia, Juan Jesus, Santon, D’Ambrosio; Medel, Guarin, Brozovic; Shaqiri; Palacio, Icardi
- Napoli have won their last 5 home matches against Inter in all competitions.
- Napoli have scored at least 2 goals in 10 of their last 11 home matches in Serie A.
- Napoli have won their last 3 home matches in Serie A.
Players to Watch Out For
Manolo Gabbiadini (Napoli)
The 23-year old Italian attacker arrived at Napoli very early in the January transfer window from Sampdoria. Gabbiadini was co-owned by Juventus so in order for the permanent move to go through, both Sampdoria and the Bianconeri had to agree to the details. In what was considered at the time to be a bargain, the Partenopei managed to secure the prized Azzurri forward for a fee of around a 13m. Deployable in several attacking positions, Gabbiadini provides exceptional versatility and his ability to be an interchangeable threat surely makes the likes of Higuain, Mertens and Callejon that much better. In addition to the flexibility he provides to Rafa Benitez, the former Bologna man has a superb left foot and one that is dangerous from set-pieces. At a 13m, he is a prime asset and one that will continue to thrive in the Italian top-flight. Manolo Gabbiadini is performing well for his new club scoring 5 goals in 12 games for his new club in all competitions.
Xherdan Shaqiri (Inter Milan)
The Swiss footballer was one of Roberto Mancinia s first signings in January and he has already asserted himself as a fansa favourite. Despite his stocky build, Shaqiri has pace and power and has often been able to turn it on for Inter when needed. With the Nerazzurria s winless run in Naples approaching 20 years, Shaqiri could be the man to break their duck.
Napoli 4a 2 Inter Milan
Napoli failed to take advantage of another chance to close in on Roma in the table and also let Lazio close the gap too, but in midweek they managed to come back in a match in which they had failed to perform well in the first half and claimed a 1-1 draw at the Olimpico. Inter’s three-match winning streak was ended at home to Fiorentina, in a 6-pointer given the fact that the two teams are battling for European positions. Roberto Mancini’s side may have made some progress in recent weeks, but they still don’t seem ready yet to take on Napoli at the San Paolo. The defensive weaknesses of the hosts will surely give some goal scoring chances to Icardi and co, but in the end the Partenopei will be the favorites to take the three points home.
Blast From the Past
The reverse league fixture back in October ended 2-2 with an injury time Hernanes equaliser marking the end of a crazy last 11 minutes, which saw four goals, go in.