Stadio San Paolo, Naples
Monday 30th Nov, 2015, 20:45 GMT
The big Monday night fixture this week sees first-meets-second as two of the best defensive units in Italy go head to head. Inter Milan currently sit two points ahead of their opponents Napoli looking to stretch their impressive unbeaten run. But they face a resurgent Napoli side who have not lost a single game since their opening day defeat to Sassuolo.
The Partenopei are unbeaten at the San Paolo and have already beaten champions Juventus along with high-flying Fiorentina as well. Roberto Mancini’s side came under fresh criticism this week because of their ‘negative’ playing style with calcio legend Arrigo Sacchi calling their tactics “ancient”.
Inter’s aggressive physical approach continues to divide opinions but there is little doubt about their position in the table. Nine clean sheets suggest a solid defensive organization but that will face a stern test as they travel south to face the free-scoring Neapolitans.
The fixture is a fascinating contest between two teams of contrasting styles. Napoli are currently on a 12-match unbeaten streak winning 13 of their last 15 matches. Gonzalo Higuain and Lorenzo Insigne are invoking memories of the club’s golden era with the pair scoring 17 times already this season. While it is still very early to call this clash a Scudetto decider, the outcome of this game will tell us which team looks like the more serious contender and also a win here will be a massive boost for either of them.
Team news and tactical brief
Napoli come into this game having won eight of their last ten games in Serie A. Only Carpi and Genoa have been able to take points away from Maurizio Sarria s team in this period. Napoli have also won their last five home matches, scoring 12 goals and conceding just two.
They have conceded only eight goals all season. The last time Napoli had such a defensive record at this point was back in 1986/87, when they won the Scudetto. But Inter have found the back of the net in their last 10 away matches, so the Partenopei should be careful.
Sarri rested most of the first team players during Napolia s Europa League encounter with Club Brugge on Thursday. Only Kalidou Koulibaly, Jos Callejon and Marek Hamsik started the match. Napoli therefore should be ready to go at full-strength, using their tried and tested XI to face Inter.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Reina(Gk); Hysaj, Koulibaly, Albiol, Ghoulam; Jorginho, Hamsik, Allan; Insigne, Higuain, Callejon
Inter are in danger of missing Geoffrey Kondogbia as the French international is reportedly suffering with a hip flexor strain. Marcelo Brozovic would be the most likely replacement for Kondogbia, should the 22-year-old fail to recover in time for the game.
Inter are currently on a four game winning streak and havena t conceded a goal during that span. The last time the Nerazzurri had a similar run in the same season was back in 2004/05. But Napoli have scored in their last 24 home league games, so it will be a battle for Murillo and Miranda along with Handanovic to keep another clean sheet.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1):Handanovic(Gk); Nagatomo, Murillo, Miranda, Telles; Felipe Melo, Brozovic; Jovetic, Ljajic, Biabiany; Icardi
Napoli and Inter have drawn each of their last three Serie A meetings: last season both games ended 2-2.
Napoli have won their last seven home games between Serie A and Europa League, scoring 22 goals and conceding just two.
Napoli have scored in their last 24 home league games: 60 goals, an average of 2.5 per game. Inter have scored in their last 10 away Serie A games.
Samir Handanovic has kept four clean sheets in a row: the last time he kept five in a row in the same season was in March 2011 with Udinese.
Stevan Jovetic has scored in two of his three games played at the San Paolo in Serie A.
Players to Watch Out For
Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli)
Gonzalo Higuain was recently labelled as the ‘best striker in the world’ by his coach Maurizio Sarri. The manner in which the Argentine has started the current campaign has given Napoli hope of a Scudetto after almost 20 years. Higuain has been integral to Napolia s recent revival, netting a hat-trick against Lazio and the goal that proved to be the winner against Juve. He also scored the decisive goals against Fiorentina and in the away games at the Verona clubs. Higuain got the winner in the Coppa Italia last year when these two sides met and will be confident of doing exactly the same tomorrow night as well.
Jeison Murillo (Inter Milan)
Jeison Murillo was almost a forgotten transfer this summer amidst all the incoming and outgoing players in the black and blue side of Milan. But without doubt he has been Inter’s best player this season. They have the best defence in Serie A and Murillo has been the main reason for this. On Monday he will face the in-form pair of Lorenzo Insigne and Gonzalo Higuain in what will be his toughest test so far personally in Italy. The Colombian was good before he joined Inter but no one expected him to have such a fantastic start to his Inter career. This season with Miranda and Murillo both on the pitch Inter have won five games and drawn two, conceding just two goals.
Napoli 1-0 Inter Milan
Maurizio Sarri has got Napoli playing an attractive, free-flowing brand of football whereas Roberto Mancini has made Inter arguably the most efficient team in the top division. Napoli are unstoppable in front of goal, but they are also solid at the back and havena t conceded a goal in their last 677 minutes of action. Sarria s strikers will have their work cut out to keep up their form in front of goal here as they come up against the meanest defence in Serie A. Napoli will create the most scoring chances, which should be enough for someone like Gonzalo Higuain to decide this contest by a solitary goal.
Blast From the Past
Mauro Icardi’s late penalty earned Inter a 2-2 draw at 10-man Napoli, as Rafael Benitez’s men spurned a two-goal lead and the chance to close the gap on second-placed Roma last season in this fixture.