Serie A: Napoli v Inter - match preview and predicted starting line-ups
02 December at 10:33
What a difference a year makes.
On November 30th 2015 the two form sides in Serie A clashed at the Stadio San Paolo with Napoli, fresh off an 8 game unbeaten run and sitting on 28 points, defeating top of the table Inter 2-1 to leapfrog the Milan giants and take top spot by a solitary point; Gonzalo Higuain scoring both Napoli goals. That was then. Fast forward to now and the fortunes of both clubs could not be more different.
With their talisman now gone, Napoli currently languish in 7th place, having won just three of their last seven Serie A matches, while Inter continue to show signs of improvement under new coach Stefano Pioli and sit just 4 points behind the Partenopei.
Inter can certainly boast the better form of the two heading into the match after a confidence boosting last minute equaliser in the Derby della Madonnina, was followed up with a 4-2 win against Fiorentina. Napoli on the other hand are limping towards January's winter mercato; struggling to score goals and looking devoid of ideas, the Neapolitans' planning for this game was thrown into chaos when Dries Mertens picked up a booking in the 1-1 draw with Sassuolo that resulted in a suspension for the visit of Pioli's men.
In Mauro Icardi, Inter have one of the most lethal finishers in the league and he will fancy his chances of adding to his already impressive haul of 12 goals as he battles it out with Edin Dzeko in the race for the Capocannoniere. One of Napoli's main failings this season has been at the back, as Sarri continually rotates his defence which has resulted in inconsistencies and lapses that have proved costly. When Raul Albiol was injured in the Champions League clash with Benfica he was replaced by either Nikola Maksimovic or Vlad Chiriches, with summer signing Lorenzo Tonelli nowhere to be seen. While Sarri was criticised for not rotating his squad enough last season, this term it feels like rotation for the sake of it as he struggles to settle on his best 11.
Against Fiorentina, Inter were rampant in the opening 20 minutes, surging to a 3-0 lead with Candreva, Icardi, and Perisic causing all kinds of trouble with their movement while being backed up from the midfield by the forward runs of Banega and Brozovic, who scored a wonderful goal after just 3 minutes at the San Siro. Dries Mertens' suspension makes Napoli's forward line up a predictable one and limits Sarri's options from the bench, although could we finally see the enigma that is Marko Rog?
Form would suggest that Inter are going to sneak this one but at the San Paolo with a passionate home crowd behind them, Napoli are more than capable of getting a result. It promises to be a fantastic game.
PROBABLE STARTING LINE-UPS:
Napoli (4-3-3): Reina, Hysaj, Koulibaly, Albiol, Ghoulam, Diawara, Hamsik, Zielinski, Insigne, Gabbiadini, Callejon.
Inter (4-2-3-1): Handanovic, D'Ambrosio, Ranocchia, Joao Miranda, Ansaldi, Brozovic, Kondogbia, Perisic, Banega, Candreva, Icardi.
James McGhie @jrmcghie