Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 17/10
Napoli are set to host Lazio at their San Paolo Stadium in Naples in the quarterfinals of this season’s Coppa Italia, only 10 days after the two teams clashed in a Serie A game at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome when a late Ciro Immobile strike secured the points for Lazio.
Napoli have been a tremendous disappointment this season. They were the team closest to Juventus in terms of fighting for the very top of the table for several years, but this time around they’ve been anything but that. Poor results, especially in the league in this case, and discord inside the club often go hand in hand in football, and so it has proven with Napoli.
There were various reports of a rift between several players and club hierarchy, namely president Aurelio De Laurentiis, and now those players are believed to want to leave. There are some notable names there, including the likes of Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens and Kalidou Koulibaly. Carlo Ancelotti has been sacked and has joined Everton since, and former AC Milan player and manager Gennaro Gattuso has been appointed in his place.
All that aside now, Napoli currently find themselves in the bottom half of the table – in 11th place, with just 24 points from 20 games and the same number of goals scored and conceded. The table is congested in that part, but it seems even Europa League qualification for next season might already be a tough ask.
Speaking of Mertens and Koulibaly, they are both unlikely to play in this game through leg and groin injury, respectively, though they haven’t yet been ruled out completely. The situation is the same with defender Faouzi Ghoulam is under observation on a daily basis as he recovers from a thigh problem and a flu. Kevin Malcuit is, however, definitely out with an ACL tear.
Lazio are writing a completely different story to that of Napoli this season. They’ve been wiped off the map of Italian teams fighting for top placement for a long time, but this time around something has clicked in its place and they are still pretty much involved in the Serie A title race. They’ve played a game less than Napoli and sit third with 45 points, two less than Inter Milan in second and six less than Juventus in the lead, but with a game in hand on both these rivals. Juventus are always at the top and Inter’s resurgence was to be expected at least to some extent given their recent heavy investments into the playing personnel, but Lazio have surprised many with their ability to stay within reach of those two.
Immobile tops the league’s goalscorers’ list with incredible 23 strikes, seven more than a certain Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus and nine more than Inter’s Romelu Lukaku, and his form has definitely been one of the key ingredients in Lazio’s fantastic run so far. It should be a very exciting period between now and the end of the season for their supporters.
Coach Simone Inzaghi cannot count on midfielder Danilo Cataldi who is out with a calf injury. Forwards Ricardo Kishna (knee) Joaquin Correa (calf) are major doubts, as are midfielders Lucas Leiva (hand) and Adam Marusic (thigh).
In a contest of two quality teams, current form is likely to make the biggest difference. Therefore, it is to be expected that Lazio get the better of Napoli again, especially if Koulibaly isn’t there to help in dealing with Immobile.
Verdict: Away win
Best odds: 17/10
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