The Monday evenung top-of-the-table clash in Italian Serie A will see second-placed Napoli play host to league leaders Inter Milan at Stadio San Paolo. While the Azzurri are unbeaten since the end of August, their opponents have only conceded once in last six, but one of these record is likely to be broken in the final game of Matchday 14.
With the squad having undergone some changes in the summer and Maurizio Sarri brought to replace Rafael Benitez, the Azzurri needed a couple of weeks to hit the ground running, but they were back to their best in no time and their amazing run still continues. Since losing to Sassuolo on the opening day of the season, Napoli did not suffer a single defeat (W13 D4), and this will go down as one of team’s most successful periods in recent history. It would appear as though the new coach has found the perfect balance, considering that the Azzurri are just as impressive up front as they were in recent years, but with the big difference being that their back line is top-notch as well. Napoli have now kept seven straight clean sheets in all competitions, while conceding just 3 goals in last 15 fixtures, which definitely gives them confidence heading into the clash with league leaders Inter Milan. The Azzurri did not concede a single goal in last five league games, but only scored six during that period, despite mostly facing bottom table sides, so everything suggests another low-scoring match is on the cards. Maurizio Sarri will have Kalidou Koulibaly back from suspension, while Lorenzo Insigne is fit to play after overcoming a calf problem. Manolo Gabbiadini is out injured, whilst Dries Mertens faces a fitness test.
Inter Milan experienced all sorts of problems during the first season upon Roberto Mancini’s return to Giuseppe Meazza, but it looks as though the club management were spot on in giving the head coach a vote of confidence. Having done some more tweaking with the squad in the summer transfer window, the former Manchester City manager surprisingly lead his side to the top of the Serie A standings, although many believe that he was quite fortunate to do so. There are two ways we can look at Inter’s record of eight narrow wins in first 13 games, with seven of those achieved with a single goal scored, but let’s not forget that Fabio Capello once won the Serie A trophy with AC Milan with his team netting mere 36 times in 34 league fixtures. It would be a major achievement if their local rivals were to repeat the success this season, and with just seven goals conceded so far, the Nerazzurri have got to be given credit for some excellent defensive performances. Roberto Mancini’s charges will need another one of those if they are to remain at the Serie A summit, and the good news is that the visitors have no major selection issues, apart from Geoffrey Kondogbia, who is doubtful through a thigh injury.
With the two sides occupying the leading positions in Serie A, there will be plenty of stake when they square off at Stadio San Paolo. Considering that a defeat could prove costly, both managers are expected to adopt cautious approaches and with their defences in perfect working order, don’t expect too many goals.
Verdict: Both teams to score – No
Best Odds: 21/20
Bookmaker: William Hill