Napoli host table-toppers AC Milan at the San Paolo Stadium on Sunday as Serie A returns from the international break.

The international break is over and the Serie A is back with an exciting weekend for football. AC Milan travel to Napoli in what is one of the most exciting games of the latest matchday.

It will be a reunion for Napoli manager, Gennaro Gattuso, who welcomes his old club in a match where a win could take the hosts to the top of the table. Gattuso’s former teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic will lead the line for AC Milan while another compatriot Daniele Bonera will manage the team in the absence of Stefano Pioli, who recently caught the coronavirus.

Beating AC Milan’s long unbeaten run will not be an easy task. However, Napoli’s record versus the Rossoneri exudes confidence for they are now unbeaten in their last 11 matches versus Milan in the Serie A. However, a lot has changed for a new-look AC Milan, and they should be unaffected by these records for they look in fine touch this season.

Despite being at the top of the table, Milan have endured rocky form in the last few games. After a 3-0 loss in the Europa League and a draw at home to Hellas Verona, Milan would look to make amends for those dropped points and get back to winning ways. This big match versus Napoli would be the right stage to do so.

Team News & Tactics

Napoli

Napoli have been extremely disciplined at the back like one would expect from Gennaro Gattuso’s team, conceding just four goals on the pitch this season. Three of those were ruled against them by the Serie A officials for failing to appear in the game versus Juventus earlier this season. A one-point penalty was also imposed upon them.

For the clash versus AC Milan, Napoli would be without their major summer signing, Victor Osimhen, who is sidelined with a dislocated shoulder he sustained during the international break. Defenders Amir Rrahmani and Elseid Hysaj will also miss out since they have both tested positive for COVID-19.

The reliable pairing of Kalidou Koulibaly and Kostas Manolas should start at the heart of Napoli’s defence. Piotr Zielinski could replace the injured Osimhen, which would allow talisman Dries Mertens to play further forward in a familiar False Nine role. Lorenzo Insigne’s return to full fitness will be a huge bonus for Napoli, who would rely on his firepower alongside Hirving Lozano.

Tiemoue Bakayoko has had a good start to life at Napoli, on loan from Chelsea, and looks likely to secure a permanent deal at the end of this term. Fabian Ruiz, who was present in Spain’s 6-0 rout of Germany, will also play an integral role in the midfield battle versus AC Milan.

Napoli will have to make sure they play to their strengths and look to hurt AC Milan from the flanks for Milan’s full-backs tend to join the attack on several occasions. Lorenzo Insigne and Lozano’s pace could be crucial in this aspect.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Koulibaly, Rui; Ruiz, Bakayoko, Zielinski; Lozano, Mertens, Insigne

AC Milan

AC Milan will be without their manager, Stefano Pioli, for the game versus Napoli as he has caught the coronavirus. Former player, Daniele Bonera would take charge as Milan look to get back to winning ways in the Serie A and extend their lead at the top of the table.

The Rossoneri have only one notable absentee for this fixture, with winger Rafael Leao ruled out with a thigh injury. Croat Ante Rebic, who has just recovered from an injury, is likely to replace Leao on the left and aid Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the front.

Ibrahimovic, 39, has had a stellar start to the campaign, scoring in each of his first 5 starts. The veteran striker has 8 goals to his name, and finding the back of the net once every 56 minutes is a phenomenal record for any player.

Alexis Saelemaekers will operate from the right flank, with Hakan Calhanoglu playing the no. 10 role. The impressive midfield duo of Franck Kessie and Ismael Bennacer will go up against Fabian Ruiz in a highly-awaited midfield battle of two top Italian sides.

Alessio Romagnoli missed out on the game versus Hellas Verona due to an injury picked up during the warm-up and will be hoping to keep a clean sheet on his return.  Theo Hernandez and Davide Calabria would look to add attacking impetus to cause the stubborn Napoli defence problems.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Donnarumma; Calabria, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Hernandez; Bennacer, Kessie; Saelemaekers, Calhanoglu, Rebic; Ibrahimovic

Key Stats

  • Napoli are unbeaten in their last 11 games against AC Milan in the Serie A. The last team to have gone unbeaten for 12 or more games versus the Rossoneri were Napoli themselves in the 1970s.
  • AC Milan have won just 1 of their 14 away Serie A games versus Napoli in the 21st century. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a goal in the sole victory.
  • If Napoli lose at home to AC Milan, it will be the first time they will have lost three home games in a row in all competitions since 2012.
  • AC Milan are unbeaten in their last 14 games away from home in all competitions, winning nine. The last time the Rossoneri enjoyed a longer run was for a total of 15 matches, under Carlo Ancelotti.
  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored in every Serie A game he has played this season.

Player to Watch

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Big stages like the one on Sunday often serve as moments for players to step up their game and rise to the occasion. Despite the host of talented players amongst the two sides, it would be criminal to put your money against Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the moment.

The Swede looks in scintillating touch and has scored in every game this season. Aged 39, a two-week break would have served well for Ibrahimovic, who would now look to get back to football’s busy schedule and continue performing. This game has an Ibrahimovic masterclass written all over it.

Prediction

Napoli 1-2 AC Milan

The return to club football should treat us with an exciting match-up between two Italian giants. Either team has the ability to take all three points from this fixture, but with AC Milan’s given form this year, they could well Napoli’s stars and take all three points. A draw, though, would be a fair outcome and both teams would probably not mind that at the moment. But, we predict a 2-1 win for AC Milan.

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