Napoli host AC Milan on Monday night in a game that is the pick of this Serie A round, with Maurizio Sarri’s men having the opportunity to return to the league summit just a week after they were displaced by Juventus. 

 

Napoli have a great chance of overtaking current league leaders Juventus after the Bianconeri settled for a 0-0 draw at Bologna on Friday night. However, the Neapolitans will have to face a resurgent AC Milan side who have no intention of giving them an inch in this match.

Milan are six points off the third (and last) Champions League spot in the Serie A, and are vying with Fiorentina, Roma, and arch rivals Inter Milan to make it into the league’s top three. However, of the four teams, AC Milan currently look the least likely to get there,  and need to win as many Serie A games as they can in the remainder of the season to give themselves a chance.

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The Managers

Maurizio Sarri: Trying to emulate the San Siro result

Bologna FC vs SSC Napoli
Sarri was well and truly beaten as far as tactics were concerned by Massimiliano Allegri in last weekend’s tie between Juventus and Napoli. However, with the the Bianconeri drawing a blank at Bologna, Sarri will be looking for a quick response from his team in the Milan game.

The Neapolitans routed the Rossoneri 4-0 in their previous encounter at the Giuseppe Meazza in October last year. Sarri could well use that result as a means of inspiring his team on Monday, and pushing them to reclaim the lead in the Serie A title race.

Napoli will look to play their usual possession-based game and lay siege to the AC Milan penalty area. This form of play suits Higuain perfectly, and the Argentine will look to get on the end of through balls played in by the likes of Insigne and Hamsik.

Siniša Mihajlovic: Resurrecting Milan with an unbeaten run

AC Milan vs UC Sampdoria

On the other hand, Mihajlovic will want to wipe away the memories from that fateful night at the San Siro, as he attempts to avenge the loss by guiding his resurgent Milan outfit to a win on Monday. In fact, the Rossoneri are on a nine-match unbeaten run in all competitions at the moment, and will be keen to extent that to double figures in one of their biggest games of the season.

However, Mihajlovic will have his work cut out for him, as Alessio Romagnoli, one of his first choice central defenders, is doubtful for the match. The Serbian does have Philippe Mexes and Cristian Zapata to replace Romagnoli, but his side will miss the composure the 21-year-old Italian has on the ball.

Like Napoli, Mihajlovic’s team also likes to play the slow possession-based game, but Milan also focus a lot of their attacking down the flanks — particularly on the right, from where Keisuke Honda whips in crosses into the box for the likes of Niang and Bacca.

Key Battles

Gonzalo Higuain vs Gianluigi Donnarumma

Milan-Inter
Higuain has been the talk of the season for Napoli, scoring 24 goals so far in the Serie A. The Argentine is arguably the biggest reason Sarri’s men are challenging for the title this season, and the Argentine will look to add to his incredible tally against Milan.

Donnarumma has been an absolute revelation for the Rossoneri this season, and has even drawn comparisons to the great Gianluigi Buffon. In spite of the Italian being just 16 years old, Mihajlovic has recognised the potential he has to possibly become one of the great goalkeepers of the modern era. Donnarumma has repaid Mihajlovic’s faith by keeping six clean sheets so far this season.

Marek Hamsik vs Riccardo Montolivo

epa03662358 Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik (R) is challenged for the ball by A.C. Milan midfielder Riccardo Montolivo during their Serie A soccer match at the Guseppe Meazza stadium in Milan, Italy, 14 April 2013. EPA/DANIEL DAL ZENNARO

Hamsik has been one of Napoli’s best players this season, alongside the likes of Gonzalo Higuain and Lorenzo Insigne, and plays an instrumental part in the Partenopei midfield. With a pass completion rate of 87%, 144 of Hamsik’s 240 passes have been played forward, which is indicative of his positivity when in possession of the ball.

However, Hamsik is likely to be embroiled in a tough midfield battle with Riccardo Montolivo on Monday. Although the Italian’s passing accuracy is not as great as that of Hamsik, Montolivo plays a lot more passes than the Slovak. In fact, Montolivo has played more than four times the number of successful passes that Hamsik has, with a success rate of 81%.

Kalidou Koulibaly vs  Carlos Bacca

Milan-Napoli

The most obvious threat on the Napoli goal will be from Carlos Bacca, who has gone on to form a great strike partnership with M’Baye Niang in the last couple of months. In fact, Bacca is currently the second highest scorer in Serie A, but is a long distance away from catching up with Higuain, having scored 13 goals in the league.

Koulibaly has been one of the best defenders for Napoli this season, forging a brilliant partnership with former Real Madrid man Raul Albiol. The 24-year-old Senegalese defender will be looking to pair up with Albiol to stop the Bacca-Niang combination, as this particular battle in the clash promises to turn into a really interesting one.

Blast from the past

AC Milan 0-4 Napoli

Milan were completely torn apart by a ruthless Napoli side at the San Siro earlier this season. Top scorer Gonzalo Higuain did not manage to get on the scoresheet, but his fellow forward Lorenzo Insigne turned up on the night to score a magnificent brace.

However, Milan are a different side now with Mihajlovic having brought in the likes of Donnarumma, Niang, and Romagnoli, and the Rossoneri will be looking to extend their unbeaten record to 10 matches in all competitions. Here are the highlights of the 4-0 mauling at the San Siro:

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