Napoli will be hoping to keep their hopes of a top four finish alive in the 2020/21 Serie A when they face off against Fiorentina on Sunday afternoon.
We are in the penultimate matchweek of the 2020/21 Serie A but the top four race is far from decided. As things stand, as many as four clubs – Atalanta, AC Milan, Juventus and Napoli are all in the mix for the remaining Champions League qualification spots along with title-winners Inter Milan while Lazio are also in with an outside chance, setting up for an exciting finish to the season.
On Saturday, Napoli will have an opportunity to take a step towards strengthening their chances of securing a top four finish when they take on a lowly Fiorentina side at Stadio Artemio Franchi.
Napoli entered the gameweek in the fourth place but have slid down to fifth following Juventus’ 3-2 win over champions Inter Milan earlier on Saturday. Gennaro Gattuso’s men, who made it seven games unbeaten in a row following their 5-1 win over Udinese earlier this week, are now two points shy of Juventus and Milan in fourth and third respectively and can overtake them with a victory on Sunday.
Fiorentina, meanwhile, have managed to turn things around slightly since Giuseppe Iachini took over the reins from Cesare Prandelli towards the end of March. The Viola are unbeaten in six of the eight games they have played under the new management (W2 D4) and haven’t lost any of their last five, including a goalless draw against Genoa last time out, that has helped them move to 13th on the table, safe from the relegation threat.
The reverse fixture, played in January earlier this year, saw Napoli thrash Fiorentina 6-0, with goals coming from Lorenzo Insigne (2), Diego Demme, Hirving Lozano, Piotr Zielinski and Matteo Politano. Ahead of their latest meeting on Sunday afternoon, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
SQUAD LIST | 📋
— ACF Fiorentina English (@ACFFiorentinaEN) May 15, 2021
Fiorentina have been handed an injury boost ahead of the game against Napoli as seasoned midfielder Borja Valero is back to full fitness and has been named in the squad by manager Giuseppe Iachini. However, there is a strong possibility that the veteran isn’t rushed back into the starting XI and remains an option on the bench.
Iachini is unlikely to make any changes whatsoever to the side that played out a 0-0 draw against Genoa last time out, with the Viola lining up in a 3-5-2 formation in front of goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski. Nikola Milenkovic, German Pezzella and Martin Caceres ought to form the three-man defensive unit for the home team.
Lorenzo Venuti and Cristiano Biraghi should be the two wing-backs on the right and left sides, respectively. The onus will be on the duo to provide the width upfield for the Viola while also remain responsible defensively.
Erick Pulgar will have a key role to play in midfield, as it will be upon him to shield the defence effectively and cover for the wing-backs when they push forward. The remaining two midfield slots ought to be taken up by Giacomo Bonaventura and Gaetano Castrovilli. Franck Ribery and Dusan Vlahovic will be the two forwards, with the former being given a free role to drift across spaces while the latter will be more of a target man.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Dragowski; Milenkovic, Pezzella, Caceres; Venuti, Bonaventura, Pulgar, Castrovilli, Biraghi; Vlahovic, Ribery
Napoli will be without as many as four first-team regulars for the trip to Florence as Faouzi Ghoulam, Kalidou Koulibaly, Stanislav Lobotka and Nikola Maksimovic are all ruled out. Gennaro Gattuso will set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation on Sunday with Alex Meret once again in line to start between the sticks ahead of David Ospina.
📃 | Our squad for #FiorentinaNapoli
— Official SSC Napoli (@en_sscnapoli) May 15, 2021
No changes are expected in the four-man backline either with Kostas Manolas and Amir Rrahmani forming the centre-back partnership flanked by Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Elseid Hysaj as the full-backs, meaning Mario Rui will be a substitute once again.
Fabian Ruiz, who has been strongly linked with a transfer to Real Madrid, is a certainty to feature in midfield for Napoli, from where he will look to fashion opportunities for his teammates. He will have on-loan Chelsea midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko as his partner, with the Frenchman tasked with breaking up attacks and initiating turnovers.
Piotr Zielinski will take up the No. 10 slot and look to provide an additional goal threat while also linking up with the wingers on either side of him, who ought to be Matteo Politano and Lorenzo Insigne. Finally, Victor Osimhen should spearhead the attack for the Partenopei with Hirving Lozano, Dries Mertens and Andrea Petagna options from the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Rrahmani, Hysaj; Ruiz, Bakayoko; Politano, Zielinski, Insigne; Osimhen
- Napoli have not lost in 11 of their last 12 away games against Fiorentina across all competitions.
- Fiorentina are on a five-game unbeaten run in Serie A – a run of results that includes a draw against Juventus and a victory over Lazio.
- Napoli have won five of their last six fixtures on the road in Serie A.
- Fiorentina have won only three of their last 21 meetings with Napoli in Serie A (D8 L10).
- Napoli have scored at least four goals in ten different games in Serie A this term, their highest such tally in a single league campaign.
Player to Watch
Dusan Vlahovic has 2️⃣1️⃣ Serie A goals for Fiorentina this season
He's still only 21 👶 pic.twitter.com/wKbdccjUDt
— Goal (@goal) May 8, 2021
It has been quite a memorable campaign for the Serbian striker despite Fiorentina struggling in Serie A. Vlahovic, so far this term, has produced an impressive tally of 21 goals in 35 league outings, while also contributing with a couple of assists. The lanky 21-year-old has found the back of the net six times in the last five games, playing a key role in the Viola’s recent turnaround of fortunes.
This sort of form has seen Vlahovic attract plenty of interest from clubs all over Europe with La Liga champions Real Madrid the latest team to be credited with an interest in him. A strong end to the campaign should help the 21-year-old further bolster his chances of getting a big-money move to a bigger club in the summer, while it could also push Fiorentina towards a top-half finish in the league.
Fiorentina 1-2 Napoli
Fiorentina have managed to somewhat arrest the downslide since Giuseppe Iachini took over but still remain way off their best, although they have tightened up defensively. But coming up against a Napoli side that are in rampant form, having scored nine goals in their last two games, the Viola, on current form, are unlikely to stand a chance on Sunday. The Hard Tackle, thus predicts, a 2-1 win for Gennaro Gattuso & co.