Napoli and Atalanta will be looking to take a step closer to the Coppa Italia finals when they face off in the first leg of the semi-finals on Wednesday.

The first leg of the 2020/21 Coppa Italia semi-finals takes place this week, with the second of two ties set to be played out at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Wednesday night as Napoli play hosts to Atalanta.

Napoli, the winners of Coppa Italia last season, entered into the competition in the Round of 16, where they beat Empoli 3-2 before thrashing Spezia 4-2 in the quarter-finals to make it to the final four. The Partenopei head into Wednesday’s game on the back of a 2-0 win over Parma and will be aiming to get one step through the door for the finals.

Atalanta, meanwhile, defeated Cagliari 3-1 in the Round of 16 before they had to come back from behind to beat Lazio 3-2 in the quarter-finals, despite being a man down. Gian Piero Gasperini’s side, though, lost 3-1 to the capital outfit 3-1 in the league this past weekend and will need to bounce back strongly if they are to keep their hopes of a trophy alive.

The two teams have met once this season, in Serie A, with Napoli trumping Atalanta 4-1 with goals coming from Hirving Lozano (2), Matteo Politano and Victor Osimhen, while Sam Lammers scored the consolation for La Dea. Ahead of their latest meeting, this time in the Coppa Italia, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Napoli

Dries Mertens misses out with an injury (Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images)

Dries Mertens misses out with an injury (Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images)

Napoli manager Gennaro Gattuso will once again have to deal with the absence of Dries Mertens, who is out injured, while Fabian Ruiz misses out due to coronavirus. Apart from that, the Partenopei boss has no other notable absentees but he might look to rotate some of his players for the cup game.

David Ospina started the last two games in goal and could make way for Alex Meret on Wednesday. Elseid Hysaj should come in at right-back for Giovanni Di Lorenzo while Mario Rui is likely to continue at left-back, from where they will look to provide an attacking outlet. Kostas Manolas and Kalidou Koulibaly should be the two centre-backs.

Diego Demme has been an ever-present at the base of the three-man midfield unit and should get the nod again, ahead of Tiemoue Bakayoko. He will be in charge of breaking up Atalanta’s rhythm and initiating quick transitions with Piotr Zielinski supporting him. Eljif Elmas ought to take up the third slot in the middle from where he will look to provide the forward thrust.

Hirving Lozano could be given a breather with Matteo Politano on the right flank while Lorenzo Insigne is a certain starter on the left, from where he will look to drift into central areas and play up close to central striker Victor Osimhen, who should replace Andrea Petagna.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Meret; Hysaj, Manolas, Koulibaly, Rui; Elmas, Demme, Zielinski; Politano, Osimhen, Insigne

Atalanta

Gian Piero Gasperini has received some good news on the team news front heading into the game, with Cristian Romero back in contention after testing negative for coronavirus. In addition, Robin Gosens is back in contention after missing the last game due to suspension.

However, Jose Luis Palomino is ruled out after being sent off in the quarter-finals while Bosko Sutalo and Hans Hateboer also miss out. The manager is likely to make a few changes to the team that started in the defeat to Lazio last time out, but La Dea should continue in their trademark 3-4-2-1 formation in front of goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini.

Berat Djimsiti and Rafael Toloi are regulars at the back for Atalanta and should feature here with Mattia Caldara likely to step in as the third central defender considering that Romero has only returned recently.

With no Hateboer, Joachim Maehle ought to line up at right wing-back again while Gosens will take up his customary position on the left, from he will act as a key outlet going forward. Remo Freuler and Marten de Roon will look to provide a solid platform in the centre of the park to allow the attackers freedom to do their bit.

Dangerman Josip Ilicic will likely pair up with Matteo Pessina as the two attacking midfielders who will look to support striker Luis Muriel in attack. Duvan Zapata will be an option from the bench.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Gollini; Toloi, Caldara, Djimsiti; Maehle, de Roon, Freuler, Gosens; Ilicic, Pessina; Muriel

Key Stats

  • Napoli and Atalanta have battled in eight matches till date in Coppa Italia. The former have picked up four wins while the latter have won twice (D2).
  • Atalanta have won just one of their last five Coppa Italia meetings against Napoli. However, that win came in their most recent game in the competition back in 2017 in the quarter-finals.
  • Napoli’s 4-1 win over Atalanta earlier this season saw them snap a run of three matches without a victory against La Dea in all competitions (D1 L2).
  • None of Napoli’s last nine matches across all competitions has ended in a draw (W6 L3).
  • Prior to their 3-1 defeat to Lazio at the weekend, Atalanta were on a 14-game unbeaten run across all competitions (W9 D5).

Player to Watch

Victor Osimhen

Embed from Getty Images

Having made a big-money switch from Lille in the summer transfer window, Osimhen has had a slow start to life in Naples. The Nigerian arrived on the back of a prolific campaign in France, but has struggled to carry that form to his new club, although he has not been helped by fitness problems, having first picked up a shoulder injury before contracting coronavirus.

This has limited Osimhen to just ten appearances across all competitions for Napoli in his debut campaign, in which he has contributed just two goals – one of which came in the league game against Atalanta.

Likely to start on Wednesday, a strong performance in the cup semi-finals could go a long way in helping the striker endear himself to the Napoli fans while it would also give manager Gennaro Gattuso food for thought with regards to his selection ahead of Andrea Petagna.

Prediction

Napoli 2-1 Atalanta

Each time Atalanta take the field, there is no shortage of entertainment in the attacking third. However, in Napoli, they will be up against one of the most solid defences in Italy this season, who have already managed to snuff them out once this season.

At the same time, Gian Piero Gasperini’s men have shown that they can be a bit suspect defensively, which should end up playing nicely into the hands of the hosts. Considering that, The Hard Tackle is predicting Gennaro Gattuso’s men to head into the second leg of the semi-finals with an advantage.

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