Stuttering Fiorentina will be looking to make amends for back-to-back defeats in the league as they prepare to welcome the in-form Napoli, who look unstoppable at the moment.
It has been a dream start to the new 2016-17 season for Paulo Sousa as his side lost only three of their opening 15 Serie A games. Having succumbed to two consecutive defeats at Genoa and Lazio however, the Viola suffered a push back to eighth place in the standings and are now huge seven points adrift of the European places. It has been a disappointing couple of weeks for Paulo Sousa’s men who face another stern challenge to their unbeaten home record during the week. Fiorentina failed to beat Napoli in five matches since 2014 and will be forced to roll up their sleeves and dig hard in order to avoid the fifth defeat to Partenopei in last six meetings. Croatian forward Nikola Kalinic has been the only bright spark for Viola over the last couple of weeks and it is thanks to his two stunning goals that Viola managed to beat Sassuolo prior to falling short at Genoa and Lazio. The Croatia international has a big point to prove once again as Europe’s biggest clubs continue to monitor his progress.
Midfielder Borja Valero has suffered a foot injury that will keep him out of contention for the Thursday’s match. In addition, striker Hernan Toledo remains on the sidelines as the Argentine international still waits on his debut game for the Serie A side.
Fans were worried that departure of Gonzalo Higuain will leave a deep scar Napoli will struggle to overcome, but Maurizio Sarri has done well enough to reassure them with some commanding performances in the 2016-17 season. Partenopei made a flying start to the new campaign, but then got a bit slowed down with a poor patch in October with the 2-1 defeat at Juventus being the last loss for Sarri’s men. Napoli picked up the pieces and lift their heads high to put in some impressive displays and go on a nine-match unbeaten run in all competitions. Last season’s title contenders are scoring for fun lately and ten goals in last two Serie A games are there to confirm the claim. Having won at Cagliari 5-0, Napoli went on to beat Sinisa Mihajlovic’s Torino 5-3 with Dries Mertens scoring four to cap a wonderful performance for the club. The Belgium international became the first player since 1974 to score consecutive Serie A hat-tricks and will be fired up to continue his impressive scoring exploits at Fiorentina as well.
Higuain’s replacement Arkadiusz Milik continues to miss out due to an ACL injury, whereas Kalidou Koulibaly remains the only other unavailable first-team player for Napoli which means Maurizio Sarri will once again be able to field his strongest line-up.
Fiorentina last defeated Napoli at home in 2009 and pressure is on hosts to end the poor run of results against the Partenopei when two sides meet on Thursday night. Paulo Sousa’s side is desperate to improve their record and make a push towards the top five teams in the league, whereas Napoli will have a big say on this particular occasion. One point behind the second-placed Roma, Sarri’s men cannot afford a slip-up that would put a major dent in their title charge.
Top pick: Both teams to score – yes 1.57 (4/7) @WilliamHill
Alternative pick 1: Dries Mertens to score anytime 2.50 (6/4) @Bet365
Alternative pick 2: Napoli 2.15 (23/20) @PaddyPower