Having suffered two defeats in last three league fixtures, Napoli have got to defeat Inter Milan if they want to remain in the driving seat for the final Champions League berth. The Nerazzurri ended the bright run of results as they lost at home to Fiorentina and now face a tricky away tie at Stadio San Paolo.
Fighting on three fronts
Having failed to mount a serious title challenge in Serie A and having crashed out in Champions League group stage, Napoli are not exactly where they want to be at the moment, but the Azzurri responded well to said disappointments. Rafa Benitez’s charges recorded a 5-0 aggregate win over Trabzonspor in the Europa League first knockout round and they are now regarded as one of the favourites for the trophy. Meanwhile, the Azzurri held Lazio to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semi-finals, and with Fiorentina beating Juventus in the other match, they also stand a very good chance of lifting the Italian Cup trophy. But, securing another Champions League qualification remains the priority for Rafa Benitez’s charges, and Napoli will have to keep their performances at a very high level if they want to hold off challenge from Fiorentina and Lazio. Defeats to Palermo and Torino allowed their top 3 rivals to close the gap to just two points, but the hosts definitely have enough quality and experience to return to winning ways against struggling Inter, especially as they are now unbeaten in last five meetings with the Nerazzurri (W3 D2).
A number of first team regulars will be recalled after they were rested in midweek, but Christian Maggio is doubtful and Zuniga, Insigne, Michu, Britos and Gargano are out injured.
Icardi needs help up front
This is proving to be another disappointing season for Inter Milan, and new boss Roberto Mancini has failed to bring much needed improvement. Even if the Nerazzurri are showing glimpses of quality, they currently occupy ninth position in the Serie A standings and are highly unlikely to secure European qualification. While their back line continues to conceded goals for fun, Inter also have problems up front seeing as Mauro Icardi is the only striker who is living up to the billing. The likes of Palacio, Shaqiri and Podolski have all failed to contribute, leaving the Argentine often isolated in the final third. The Nerazzurri did show some improvement of late, defeating Palermo, Atalanta and Cagliari in the league, but they fact they needed almost an hour to score against ten-man Celtic at their Stadio Giuseppe Meazza speaks volumes about their attacking problems. Inter then failed to find the net as they were beaten at home by Fiorentina, with this match proving the Nerazzurri are nowhere near good enough to match Italy’s top sides. And with Napoli a real force to be reckoned with at Stadio San Paolo, Roberto Mancini’s charges could be in for yet another disappointment.
Andrea Ranocchia is expected to return, but Jonathan and Yuto Nagatomo are out injured and top scorer Mauro Icardi faces a fitness test.
Napoli may have suffered a small dip in form of late, but having won last six matches at home, they can be trusted to extend the bright run in matches against Inter Milan. The Nerazzurri clearly struggle when facing top European sides and I don’t think they can match the Azzurri at Stadio San Paolo.
Top pick: Home win 1.95 (19/20) @ Betfred
Alternative pick 1: Over 2.5 goals 1.90 (9/10) @ Betfair
Alternative pick 2: Napoli/Napoli 3.10 (21/10) @ Paddy Power