Napoli will aim to secure their place in the UEFA Champions League when they face Hellas Verona in the final matchday of the Serie A campaign on Sunday.

Embroiled in the race for the Champions League places, Napoli have a fight on their hands as they look to return to the coveted competition with a win over Hellas Verona on Sunday, kicking Juventus in the process.

The Partenopei have their destiny in their own hands, thanks to a marginal one-point lead over fifth-placed Juventus. It means a win over Verona should be enough to help them finish inside the top four, potentially even the top three as Milan face a tough test against Atalanta on the same day.

Napoli have been in a good vein of form in recent weeks, securing three back-to-back win in the league, while also overtaking Inter Milan as the second-best attacking team in the division.

Verona, meanwhile, have their tenth spot pretty much secured as they have a healthy goal difference as well as a three-point lead over Bologna. They are also trailing ninth-placed Sampdoria by five points, meaning this is more or less a dead rubber for Ivan Juric’s men, although they will still be keen on ending the campaign on a positive note.

Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this highly important Serie A encounter at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium this weekend.

Tactics & Team News

Napoli

Despite the absence of star player Kalidou Koulibaly, the defensive pairing of Amir Rrahmani and Kostas Manolas has worked out quite well for Gennaro Gattuso’s men in recent matches. The duo will look to continue, along with Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Elseid Hysaj, who will be occupying the full-back slots, though they are going to play a key role in the offensive game as well.

Indeed, Napoli need players who can provide the width going forward, especially given the fact that they are likely to opt for an all-out attacking approach against Verona. Victor Osimhen is more than likely to spearhead the Napoli attack, with Gattuso also expected to retain the creative trifecta of Matteo Politano, Piotr Zielinski and Lorenzo Insigne.

Both the wingers do, however, like to cut inside, which is where the full-backs could be important in offering the overlapping runs going forward.

Zielinski, on the other hand, might drop back during defensive phases, joining Fabian Ruiz and Diego Demme in the second line of press. It will be imperative for Napoli to create turnovers in key areas of the park if they are to breach the Verona backline through quick counter-attacks.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Rrahmani, Hysaj; Demme, Ruiz; Politano, Zielinski, Insigne; Osimhen

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Hellas Verona

Hellas Verona head coach Ivan Juric likes to play with a 3-4-2-1 and that is unlikely to change this weekend, even though Napoli prefer a four-man backline. Given that this one is a dead rubber for the visitors, we could expect another start for young goalkeeper Ivor Pandur, ahead of Marco Silvestri.

There should not be any changes elsewhere in the defensive unit either, with Federico Dimarco, Koray Gunter and Federico Ceccherini continuing their partnership in the three-man backline, with additional assistance from the wing-backs Davide Faraoni and Darko Lazovic.

In midfield, though, Juric is missing out on Marco Benassi, although Miguel Veloso is back in action and might even start in the double pivot alongside Adrien Tameze, as part of Verona’s midfield rotation.

Antonin Barak, too, is unavailable due to suspension, which could see Daniel Bessa being shifted in a more advanced role alongside Mattia Zaccagni, as they hope to provide the supply for the lone frontman Nikola Kalinic.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Pandur; Dimarco, Gunter, Ceccherini; Faraoni, Tameze, Veloso, Lazovic; Bessa, Zaccagni; Kalinic

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Key Stats

  • Napoli have won 17 of their last 21 Serie A games against Verona.
  • After a 3-1 comeback win in the reverse fixture, Verona can avoid defeat in both Serie A games against Napoli for the first time since 1986/87.
  • Napoli have won each of their last 11 Serie A home games against Verona; they have never done better against a single opponent in the competition.
  • Only Parma (5) have gained fewer points than Verona (6) over the last 12 Serie A games.
  • Napoli have scored 30 goals in their last 10 league home games. In general, the Partenopei need only one goal to set a new record for home goals in a Serie A season (currently 49, as in 2015/16 – no team in the current tournament has done better).

Player to Watch

Victor Osimhen

Victor Osimhen is indubitably the man in form for not just Napoli but also in Serie A at the moment. The forward has been on fire in front of goal, with nine of his 13 goal involvements this season coming since the start of April. His upturn of fortunes has played a key role in helping Napoli secure valuable wins, including the 5-2 triumph over Lazio.

Although Osimhen’s overall tally of 10 league goals might not raise too many eyebrows considering his €70 million price tag, he is certainly starting to find his feet in Italy. And given his performances in recent weeks, the Nigerian international could certainly cause problems for the Hellas Verona defence with his dynamism in the final third, coupled with his work rate and positional sense.

The former Lille frontman, therefore, is certainly a threat for Ivan Juric and preventing him from influencing the game could be critical as Verona look to stop Napoli in their tracks.

Prediction

Napoli 2-0 Hellas Verona

Hellas Verona have been in miserable form over the past few weeks, struggling to put together a coherent performance in any of their last eight league matches. Although that has improved slighlyt in recent games, they still have fatal flaws in their defensive game while the attack could be stifled by the absence of top-scorer Antonin Barak.

Therefore, it appears unlikely that Ivan Juric’s men will be able to stop a Napoli side that are coming on the back of three back-to-back wins in Serie A and are in free-scoring form. The Hard Tackle predicts a comfortable 2-0 victory for the hosts, thereby ensuring that their Champions League position is secured.

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