The battle to qualify for Europe continues with a huge clash between Napoli and Milan on Sunday evening.
Currently in sixth place, Gli Azzurri have strung together two consecutive wins, the most recent being a 2-1 triumph at Genoa. They look to be playing their best football under Gennaro Gattuso’s management, and the fact that the notorious hard man will be facing his former club this weekend adds even more spice to the clash.
However, the visitors are yet to taste defeat in their last five games and have picked up significant wins against Italy’s best, with Juventus the latest to be humbled in a 4-2 victory. Currently the top-flight’s most in-form side, they’ll be confident of picking up another three points, which would see them overtake their opponents in the table.
When is Kick Off? Sunday 12 July
What Time is Kick Off? 20:45 (GMT)
Where Is it Played? Stadio San Paolo
TV Channel/Live Stream? Premier Sports 1 (UK), fuboTV (US)
Napoli have a fully fit squad to choose from, giving Gattuso plenty to ponder for his team selection. Highly sought-after defender Kalidou Koulibaly and defensive midfielder Diego Demme both return from suspension, and will likely be restored to the starting lineup. Having been benched for their last game, midfielder Piotr Zieliński and winger Jose Callejón will probably be chosen to start as well.
By contrast, the Rossoneri will be without several players for Sunday’s clash. Winger Samu Castillejo will miss out due to a muscle problem, while defenders Léo Duarte (muscle) and Mateo Musacchio (ankle) will also be unavailable. Hakan Çalhanoğlu will likely start for Stefano Pioli, after an injury problem forced him to the bench against La Vecchia Signora.
Napoli: Meret; Di Lorenzo, Maksimović, Koulibaly, Rui; Zieliński, Demme, Ruiz; Insigne, Mertens, Callejón.
Milan: Donnarumma; Conti, Kjær, Romagnoli, Hernández; Bennacer, Kessié; Leão, Çalhanoğlu, Rebić; Ibrahimović.
After a tough 2-0 defeat at Atalanta, Gli Azzurri have rebounded nicely with two straight wins over AS Roma and Genoa respectively. With seven games to play, they’ll be looking to secure automatic qualification for the Europa League as quickly as possible, especially with their opponents breathing down their neck in the table.
Meanwhile, Milan have been exceptional since returning to action, having gone unbeaten in their last five games. As mentioned, huge wins over Lazio and the Bianconeri mean that they’ve moved themselves within striking distance of fifth-placed Roma, and another impressive performance could see them leapfrog both Napoli and the Giallorossi by the end of the weekend.
Here’s how both sides have fared in their last five games.
Genoa 1-2 Napoli (8/7)
Napoli 2-1 Roma (5/7)
Atalanta 2-0 Napoli (2/7)
Napoli 3-1 SPAL (28/6)
Verona 0-2 Napoli (23/6)
Milan 4-2 Juventus (7/7)
Lazio 0-3 Milan (4/7)
SPAL 2-2 Milan (1/7)
Milan 2-0 Roma (28/6)
Lecce 1-4 Milan (22/6)
This game is incredibly close to call, given that both sides are in winning form at the moment and are playing their best football all season.
Having won all three games at home since Serie A’s restart, Napoli are tough to defeat for any visiting team and will undoubtedly be bolstered defensively by the return of Koulibaly and Demme in their first-choice lineup.
But it’s really hard to look past the Rossoneri’s red-hot form, looking lethal in attack while also finding a terrific midfield pairing in Bennacer and Kessié to protect their backline. Pioli’s side look visibly improved to before the break and have shown they can win big away games, as the recent 3-0 victory at the title-challenging Lazio demonstrated.
It promises to be a crackerjack of a game that promises plenty of goals, and will likely end in an entertaining draw at the Stadio San Paolo.
Prediction: Napoli 2-2 Milan