Friday, May 24, 2024

Prediction: Napoli vs Roma

Verdict: Draw

Best odds: 13/5

Bookmaker: Olympusbet

With time ticking away to salvage European football from a disappointing season, Napoli will host southern rivals AS Roma at Stadio Maradona on Sunday evening.

The Derby del Sole occurs against the backdrop of Napoli’s recent loss to Empoli and the subsequent crowning of Inter Milan as Italian champions. On the other hand, Roma find themselves on the brink of securing a return to the Champions League, adding to the significance of the fixture.

Napoli

After settling for a disappointing 2-2 draw with Frosinone just days prior, Napoli faced another setback against struggling Serie A side Empoli last Saturday, enduring a toothless 1-0 defeat at Stadio Carlo Castellani.

The defeat marked a new low in Napoli’s dismal title defence, with interim coach Francesco Calzona winning just three of his first nine league games since taking over, becoming the Partenopei’s third manager since the departure of Scudetto-winning coach Luciano Spalletti last summer.

Napoli’s attacking prowess has waned significantly, and their defensive struggles continue to haunt them, as they have now conceded at least one goal in 12 consecutive Serie A matches. This marks only the second time in club history that Napoli have endured such a long streak without keeping a clean sheet, with the last instance occurring in 1998.

With Inter’s recent success in the Milan derby, Napoli have relinquished their status as reigning champions, potentially freeing them from the burden of expectation as they face a challenging run-in.

Upcoming matches against Bologna and Fiorentina await Calzona’s team before the end of the season, but first, they host fellow European contenders Roma. Despite going unbeaten in their last five meetings with Roma at the Maradona, Napoli suffered a 2-0 defeat in the reverse fixture in December, ending a seven-match unbeaten streak against the Giallorossi.

Team News

With both Amir Rrahmani and Mario Rui back in action after serving one-match bans, Napoli’s back line is expected to don a more familiar shape this week, following Calzona’s forced improvisations in the Empoli match.

However, left-back Mathias Olivera is unlikely to recover from a thigh injury in time, marking the only absence for an otherwise full squad.

As a result, an attacking trio consisting of Victor Osimhen, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, and Matteo Politano is poised to start once again. Politano, who scored his first Serie A goal against Roma nine years ago, has been directly involved in 13 top-flight goals this season. He needs just one more goal or assist to match his best tally, set in 2017/18.

AS Roma

After securing three consecutive victories to reach the Europa League semifinals and strengthen their position in the top-five race in the Serie A, Roma suffered a setback last weekend with a 3-1 home defeat to fourth-placed Bologna, who are also competing for a Champions League spot.

With the Italian top flight earning five spots in the next edition of UEFA’s premier club competition, Daniele De Rossi’s side could not afford another slip-up, especially with Atalanta just four points behind and with a game in hand.

On Wednesday evening, Roma resumed their match against Udinese, which had been suspended for nearly two weeks due to Evan Ndicka’s collapse. The match restarted with the score level at 1-1, and Bryan Cristante’s stoppage-time header secured a vital victory for Roma in Udine, where the hosts were under the management of Fabio Cannavaro, De Rossi’s former Italy teammate, making his debut as Bianconeri boss.

While Roma typically handle matches against lower-ranked Serie A teams, they have struggled in encounters with clubs currently occupying the top eight positions. This weakness has persisted despite efforts by both Paulo Fonseca and Jose Mourinho before De Rossi took over. Roma’s tally of just eight points from nine such contests this season is the lowest among the top-eight clubs in Serie A, followed closely by Napoli’s meager total of 10 points. However, one of these sides will have the opportunity to improve their record when they face off on Sunday evening.

Team News

Roma will have one eye on Thursday’s Europa League showdown with new German champions Bayer Leverkusen, but De Rossi is not expected to make significant changes to his squad.

Two alterations from the lineup that faced Bologna are required due to suspensions for Diego Llorente and Leandro Paredes. Additionally, Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku are both doubtful due to injury.

While Evan Ndicka may return to the bench after recovering from the incident that halted Roma’s match against Udinese, he is unlikely to start, with Juventus loanee Dean Huijsen likely to step into the central defence.

If Lukaku is unable to feature, either Sardar Azmoun or Tammy Abraham will lead the line, supported by Stephan El Shaarawy. Notably, El Shaarawy has scored five goals in his last six league visits to Naples.

Conclusion

Recent history between Roma and Napoli indicates a trend of late drama, with six of the last seven goals scored in their encounters coming within the final 15 minutes.

Considering Napoli’s underwhelming home record, Roma may capitalize on this opportunity to inflict further misery on the hosts by securing a rare win in Naples, but a draw feels more likely to happen.

Verdict: Draw

Best odds: 13/5

Bookmaker: Olympusbet

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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