Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 17/20
Napoli are set to play host to Fiorentina at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Sunday afternoon within the 34th round of the Serie A campaign, and it’s set to be a very special occasion for the home supporters as they welcome their heroes, the new Serie A champions, home.
It’s truly been a remarkable season for Luciano Spalletti and his men. They took off straight away, building up the gap behind them, and for a very long time now it only seemed a matter of time when the Scudetto would be officially theirs, while the others competed (and still compete) for the remaining three spots which warrant Champions League football.
Now it has happened. Going into the Fiorentina clash, they have 80 points on the board, 16 more than Lazio in second place, and with only 15 points left to be won across the remaining five rounds, the celebrations have already started in the city under the dormant Vesuvius. The Champions League exit in the quarterfinals at the hands of AC Milan has probably been forgotten already.
It’s hard to factor in current form when it comes to situations like this, simply because there’s nothing but the happiness of their fans left to play for, from Napoli’s point of view. But for what it’s worth, their last-six run in all competitions consists of a 1-0 defeat away to Milan in the first leg of their Champions League clash, a goalless draw at home against relegation-battling Verona, a 1-1 draw in the home leg against Milan, a huge 0-1 win away to Juventus, a disappointing 1-1 draw at home against Salernitana where a victory would’ve sealed the title then and there, and a 1-1 draw away to Udinese which brought the point that finally did it, courtesy of a 52nd-minute equalizer by Victor Osimhen.
Spalletti is likely to play the strongest XI available in this match, despite the Scudetto being won. Only left-back Mario Rui is out through injury.
Alex Meret should be in goal, with Kim Min-jae and Amir Rrahmani as the centre-back partnership, captain Giovanni Di Lorenzo on the right and Mathias Olivera on the left. Stanislav Lobotka will anchor the midfield, with Frank Anguissa and Piotr Zielinski in the box-to-box roles. Upfront, Osimhen will have his trusty sidekick Khvicha Kvaratskhelia on the left, and Hirving Lozano on the right.
As for the Viola, they seem to have timed their form just right, maybe not for the Italian top flight but certainly for the other two competitions they’re involved in. They’ll surely be looking to take all three points from the Diego Maradona, counting on the home team’s hangover from the title win to help, but they will have distractions of their own to overcome. Sitting eighth in the Serie A table with 46 points, 12 less than AS Roma in seventh, they’re probably as high as they’ll be for the rest of the season, missing out on European qualification.
That is, unless they manage to win the Europa Conference League, where they’re set to face Swiss side Basel in the semifinals. The first leg takes place next Thursday, and head coach Vincenzo Italiano will have that match somewhere in his mind right now as well. They’ve also done great in the Coppa Italia, booking a place in the final against Inter Milan later this month.
Like that of Napoli, Fiorentina’s last-six run in all competitions isn’t great – only one win, along with three draws and two defeats. They first drew 1-1 away to Atalanta, then lost 2-3 at home against Lech Poznan in the Conference League and went through on aggregate, then lost 3-2 away to Monza, drew 0-0 at home against Cremonese in the second leg of the Coppa, also going through on aggregate, then thrashed struggling Sampdoria 5-0 at home, and eventually played a 3-3 draw away to Salernitana.
Italiano also has almost his full squad ready, with only goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu injured and defender Lucas Martinez Quarta suspended.
Pietro Terracciano will be between the posts. Nikola Milenkovic and Igor will pair up in the heart of defence, flanked by Dodo and Aleksa Terzic. Sofyan Amrabat and Rolandro Mandragora will act as a double pivot in the middle of the park, while the trio of Christian Kouame, Antonin Barak and Riccardo Saponara support Luka Jovic in attack.
Both coaches will obviously send their best players out to play, but there shouldn’t be much pressure on either team to get a result. It should be little more than a friendly game, in which Napoli are still the favourites to win, but both teams should be able to find the back of the opposition net.
Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 17/20
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