Inter Milan will look to retain their place at the top of the Serie A table when they lock horns with Napoli at San Paolo Stadium on Monday.
Inter Milan have been one of the most impressive teams in Europe this season. The Italian giants have significantly improved following the arrival of Antonio Conte. As a result, they are leading the Serie A table, with 42 points on the board. However, second-placed Juventus, also with 42 points, are only trailing due to an inferior goal difference.
Hence, there is absolutely no margin for error for Inter Milan when they travel to San Paulo Stadium to face Napoli on Monday. The club from Milan secured an impressive 4-0 win over Genoa in their last game, back in the third week of December, meaning they have had an ample amount of time to prepare for this fixture.
Napoli, in contrast, are having one of their worst seasons in recent years. The Partenopei are dawdling in eighth place, and sacked Carlo Ancelotti earlier this campaign. They lost their first game under new coach Gennaro Gattuso, but secured a 2-1 win over Sassuolo in the following fixture.
Therefore, it will be interesting to see how each of these two teams fare. And here, atTthe Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this crucial Serie A fixture on Monday.
Tactics & Team News
Gennaro Gattuso has several absences to deal with, including Kevin Malcuit, Faouzi Ghoulam and Kalidou Koulibaly, while Nikola Maksimovic is out with a suspension. Moreover, Lorenzo Tonelli is also sidelined with an injury, meaning the former AC Milan coach will have a selection dilemma in the defensive department.
Konstantinos Manolas is a guaranteed starter alongside Sebastian Luperto in central defence as these two are the only viable options available. Giovanni Di Lorenzo, meanwhile, is expected to start ahead of Elseid Hysaj at right-back while Mario Rui is set to retain his place on the opposite flank.
The midfield will remain the same as well, with Fabian Ruiz, Allan and Piotr Zielinski operating at the base of Napoli’s 4-3-3. Zielinski, however, is expected to operate in a slightly advanced midfield role, looking to provide the creative essence going forward.
In attack, Gattuso has many options. Arkadiusz Milik is expected to retain his role in the number ten slot, ahead of Dries Mertens, with Jose Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne operating as wide attackers. Hirving Lozano is another option Gattuso could utilise later in the game as his pace could become useful.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Meret; Lorenzo, Manolas, Luperto, Rui; Zielinski, Ruiz, Allan; Callejon, Milik, Insigne
Antonio Conte is expected to opt for his strongest possible eleven as Inter Milan look to seal all three points in this important encounter. The former Chelsea boss will certainly stick to his tried and tested 3-5-2 formation, with the reliable defensive trio of Diego Godin, Milan Skriniar and Stefan de Vrij forming the three-man backline.
There are options available to Conte as far as the wing-back department is concerned. Antonio Candreva started on the right flank in the last game, and the veteran is likely to retain his place in the team, with Danilo D’Ambrosio out injured. Same can be said Cristiano Biraghi, on the opposite flank, although Federico Dimarco is also an option.
In midfield, Matias Vecino might make way for the returning Marcelo Brozovic. The Croat will operate at the heart of Inter’s 3-5-2, looking to instigate his side’s build-up and circulate the ball around the park. He could be partnered by Roberto Gagliardini and Stefano Sensi, who might replace Borja Valero in the number eight slot.
And finally, in attack, Romelu Lukaku is a guaranteed starter. But, it remains to be seen as to who will partner the Belgian in the two-man offensive line.
Sebastian Esposito is an option, having scored in the win over Sassuolo. But, Conte might opt for the more experienced and reliable figure of Lautaro Martinez.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, de Vrij, Godin; Candreva, Gagliardini, Brozovic, Sensi, Biraghi; Lukaku, Martinez
- Inter Milan have scored just two goals in their last six Serie A meetings with Napoli.
- Inter’s last away win against Napoli in Serie A was back in October 1997: the Partenopei have won nine such meetings and drawn four since.
- Napoli have won their first league match of the year in each of the past eight years, a record of most such victories on the trot in Serie A history.
- Napoli have won only one of their last five Serie A games against sides top of the table at the begin of a matchday.
- Inter have lost only one of their last 13 away games in Serie A, although this was a 1-4 defeat against Napoli in their last away game played last term.
Player to Watch
Lukaku has become the darling of the Serie A since moving to Inter Milan in a €65 million move from Manchester United in the summer. The Belgian has already netted 12 league goals – making him the second-highest goalscorer in the Italian top flight so far this campaign.
Lukaku’s physical presence in the final third could cause a lot of problems for the likes of Manolas and Luperto, especially in set-pieces. Moreover, his seemingly telepathic combination with Martinez is something the Napoli defenders should be aware of if they are to keep the Inter attack at bay on Monday.
Hence, the former Everton star is certainly someone fans should look out for, although it would be equally interesting to see how the offensive trio of Milik, Insigne and Callejon perform under the new coach.
Napoli 1-3 Inter Milan
Inter Milan are hot favourites to seal all three points in this fixture, despite Napoli’s home advantage. The hosts are struggling with a host of injuries and might appear over-reliant on the services of Manolas in defence. Moreover, they are yet to get to grips with Gattuso’s strategy, so their high press might not exactly work properly against the league leaders.