Napoli will be looking to keep pace with AC Milan in the race for the top six, when they take on Sassuolo on Matchday 36 of the 2019/20 Serie A.

After tasting defeat in their previous encounter, Napoli will be aiming to return to winning ways when they play hosts to Sassuolo at Stadio San Paolo on Saturday night.

The Partenopei were handed a 2-1 defeat by Parma earlier this week, which meant they fell behind AC Milan in the top six race. Gennaro Gattuso’s side are currently seventh in the table, three points below the Rossoneri, although the gap could widen to six by the time Napoli kick things off on Saturday. Therefore, a win will be pivotal for Napoli this weekend.

Sassuolo, on the other hand, are currently eighth in the table, but are not in contention for a top six finish. However, with the likes of Hellas Verona and Fiorentina breathing down their necks, the Neroverdi will need to pick up a win to ensure a finish in the top half of the table. Roberto De Zerbi’s side are winless in their last three games, losing the most recent game 2-1 to AC Milan.

The reverse fixture, played back in December last year, saw Napoli eke out a 2-1 win, courtesy a stoppage time own goal by Pedro Obiang, after Allan had cancelled out Hamed Junior Traore’s first-half strike. And ahead of their latest meeting this weekend, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

Napoli

Mertens still not 100% fit (Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images)

Mertens is still not 100% fit. (Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images)

Napoli will welcome back Arkadiusz Milik into the squad, with the striker back in contention after serving out his suspension. Star forward Dries Mertens is still not 100% fit and may once again start on the bench.

The returning Milik should walk right back into the starting XI, slotting in as the centre-forward. The Polish international ought to be flanked by danger man Lorenzo Insigne, while Jose Callejon could get the nod on the right flank, ahead of Matteo Politano.

Fabian Ruiz, who is the main creative outlet for Napoli, is a certainty to feature in the centre of the park. He will have support from Piotr Zielinski, while Stanislav Lobotka could get the nod over Diego Demme as the holding midfielder on Saturday night.

Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Mario Rui are pretty much certain to feature as the full-backs on the right and left sides, respectively, while Kalidou Koulibaly, who continues to be linked with an exit, will slot in as one of the two centre-halves. He could be in for a change of partners though, with Kostas Manolas likely to replace Nikola Maksimovic.

Alex Meret should once again hold the fort between the sticks for the hosts, ahead of Orestis Karnezis.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Manolos, Koulibaly, Rui; Ruiz, Lobotka, Zielinski; Callejon, Milik, Insigne

Sassuolo

Roberto De Zerbi will be without the services of midfielder Mehdi Bourabia, who was sent off in the last game against AC Milan. Apart from him, Sassuolo will also have to do without key man Jeremie Boga, who is closing in on a transfer to Napoli, as the winger picked up an injury in the last match. Filippo Romagna, Pedro Obiang, Gregoire Defrel are also ruled out.

The manager is unlikely to make a host of changes to the side that lost to Milan last time. Sassuolo should line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation in front of goalkeeper Andrea Consigli. Mert Muldur and Giorgos Kyriakopoulos ought to be the full-backs on the right and left sides, respectively, with Marlon Santos and Gian Marco Ferrari starting as the centre-backs.

With Bourabia suspended, Francesco Magnanelli should get the nod alongside Manuel Locatelli in the midfield double pivot on Saturday. The creative responsibilities will be on the shoulders of Filip Djuricic, who ought to slot in as the No. 10 for the visitors.

Star man Domenico Berardi should slot in on the right flank while Lukas Haraslin is likely to once again start on the left in the absence of Boga. Spearheading the attack for the Neroverdi ought to be in-form striker Francesco Caputo.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Consigli; Muldur, Marlon, Marco Ferrari, Kyriakopoulos; Magnanelli, Locatelli; Berardi, Djuricic, Haraslin; Caputo

Key Stats

  • Napoli and Sassuolo have met 13 times in the Serie A so far. The Partenopei have the upper hand in the head-to-head record, having won seven of the 13 meetings, while the Neroverdi have won just once (D5).
  • Sassuolo have never scored more than one goal away to Napoli in Serie A. Till date, they have found the back of the net just four times on their six visits to San Paolo.
  • Napoli have scored in each of their 13 Serie A matches against Sassuolo – 22 goals in total at an average of 1.7 strikes per game.
  • Sassuolo boss Roberto De Zerbi has never beaten Napoli in his managerial career (D1 L4).
  • Napoli have conceded goals in each of their last 11 home games in Serie A, equaling their longest such run from 1960.

Player to Watch

Francesco Caputo

The 32-year-old striker has been in top form heading into the game, having contributed with six goals and three assists in ten matches since the season resumed last month. Caputo’s tally for the campaign reads 19 goals and 7 assists in 33 Serie A outings. Only Ciro Immobile, Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku have scored more than the Sassuolo ace.

Caputo has found the back of the net in each of his last four appearances, and stands to become the first-ever Sassuolo player to score in five Serie A matches on the bounce. With Napoli not being all too solid at the back of late, the Italian forward could be a major threat for the hosts on Saturday.

Prediction

Napoli 1-1 Sassuolo

Both Napoli and Sassuolo come into the game on the back of defeats and will be itching to bounce back to winning ways. So, it is likely to be a closely-fought contest at Stadio San Paolo with both teams unlikely to hold back in search for three points.

A spot in the top six is on the line for Napoli, which ought to provide them with extra motivation, but they have been leaky at the back, having not kept a clean sheet in their last eight matches. That, coupled with Francesco Caputo’s form, should give Sassuolo a chance on Saturday night. The Hard Tackle predicts this one to end in a 1-1 stalemate.

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