Fiorentina have surged up the table with a six-game unbeaten run, bouncing back from the double defeat against Lazio and Milan. They head into the match in a positive mood although their crushing 3-0 loss at Tottenham in midweek could severely affect their morale.
Fiorentina’s ideal tactic should be to isolate Gonzalo Higuain and stop the services to the Argentine. Lorenzo Insigne and Jose Callejon need to be their clinical selves when opportunities come their way, as Higuain has looked a little tired in the past few weeks. Similarly Nikola Kalinic has slowed down after a bright start to the season, and he is not likely to get much space in this game against an organized Napoli defence.
Napoli were on a run of eight consecutive league game wins before a painful loss against Juventus followed by a stalemate against Milan. To make matters worse, they were dumped out of the Europa League by La Liga side Villarreal. Sarri has a tough job at hand to make sure Napoli recover in this crucial phase of the season.
Napoli are a side built to play on the counter-attack, and Paulo Sousa will revert to a back four to neutralise this threat. Marek Hamsik will play a crucial role to link the midfield and attack. It will be a busy night for the Napoli captian who will have to drive a team that is well short of confidence at this moment.
Paulo Sousa v Maurizio Sarri
Sousa and Sarri have met only once in their managerial careers, and it was the Italian who came out on top in the first meeting in this season between the two clubs. Napoli beat Fiorentina 2-1 earlier in their campaign.
Impressive home form could be decisive for Sousa’s men
Fiorentina will have to quickly forget their trip to London where they suffered a heavy loss against Tottenham Hotspur in the Europa League. Viola were slow, rugged and deservedly lost the match. They are a very tough team to beat on their home turf , having recorded 13 wins in 16 fixtures. They have recorded nine clean sheets in this spell and only Roma and Lazio have taken all the three points from Florence.
Nikola Kalinic and Josip Ilicic will have to put on their best show in this crunch game at home, where they usually score over two goals on an average. Fiorentina are on a six-game unbeaten run and another victory here will definitely make them title contenders.
Mauro Zarate will be missing this game due to a suspension, while January signing Yohan Benalouane is also out injured. Apart from that, Sousa has no major concerns.
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Sarri must prove Napoli are not dependent on Higuain
Gonzalo Higuain has not scored in four successive games, and it seems as if Napoli are toothless when their leading scorer is not contributing. Sarri’s side have been struggling in front of goal which is the major reason why they have not won in 4 consecutive fixtures.
The Partenopei are starting to struggle and need to get back to winning ways as soon as possible. When you have a player like Higuain in your team, it is quite natural that there will be some amount of dependency on him, but total dependency on a player can only hurt Napoli’s chances in this crucial juncture. Lorenzo Insigne and Jose Callejon must step up now and relieve some pressure, as Higuain might be a bit tired after his impressive displays this season.
Fiorentina’s rock-solid defence could pose a big problem, and Paulo Sousa will no doubt instruct his defenders to tightly mark the Argentinian forward. It is high time for the other players to fire, or else Napoli’s season could go from bad to worse at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
Alberto Grassi is suffering from a knee injury and is a doubt for the forthcoming match, while it seems that Ivan Strinic is not fully fit and will remain sidelined.
Gonzalo Higuain vs Fiorentina defence
The Argentine is the standout player in this fixture. He is the main reason behind Napoli’s title charge this season, and he will likely be less than impressed by the comments from his president about him being overweight. Higuain has faced much criticism in his career, but has always managed to offer a fitting response. Napoli fans will be hoping for a similar reaction this time also.
Fiorentina have been defensively solid at home this season and will be confident of their ability to stop Higuain on Monday. But they have to maintain their organisation, and recover their confidence after a heavy 3-0 loss in England on Thursday.
Insigne & Callejon vs Fiorentina wing-backs
Both Insigne and Callejon will look to exploit the space behind the Fiorentina defence out wide particularly with the presence of relatively shaky Fiorentina full-backs. Both should look to drag the centre-halves out of position to create more space for Marek Hamsik to support Higuain.
The Fiorentina wingers, Federico Bernardeschi and Tello, will have to keep an eye on these two and make sure they protect their full-backs. Sousa will be moving to a back four to tackle this situation precisely.
Borja Valero and Nikola Kalinic vs Napoli defence
Fiorentina themselves will be hoping that Nikola Kalinic finds the form that shot Fiorentina to the top of Serie A in the first half of the season. His form in the second half of the season has been poor and Sousa needs to address this situation immediately.
Borja Valero will continue to pull the strings in midfield, although he will be under a lot of pressure from Allan. Napoli’s defence has looked strong throughout the season but the midfield needs to protect them, as Fiorentina have plenty of astute players in the final third.
Blast from the past
Napoli secured a tight 1-0 win against Fiorentina in Serie A last time these two sides met at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in 2015.