High-flying Napoli will welcome minnows Cremonese as they bid to strengthen their hold at the top of the Serie A standings.

Serie A leaders SSC Napoli will take on minnows Cremonese at home on Saturday as they seek to strengthen their hold at the top of the league table.

Luciano Spalletti’s side is arguably the most exciting one in Europe at the moment and have lost just two all season in 90 minutes. They have a 13-point lead at the top of the table and will take some stopping. The same cannot be said of Cremonese, who are rock bottom in Serie A.

Davide Ballardini’s men are yet to win a single game this season and have picked up a mere eight points from 21 Serie A games so far. They are ten points off safety and look odds-on to get relegated at the end of the campaign. For them to take anything from the trip to the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium will be nothing short of a miracle.

Both teams have already met each other twice this season, once in the league and then in the Coppa Italia earlier this year. While Napoli romped home to a 4-1 win in Serie A, they fell to a shock loss on p[penalties in the cup fixture.

One can argue that Spalletti is unlikely to field a weak team on the night and will go in strong with his first XI in contention. With no UEFA Champions League clash to look forward to next week, Napoli can afford to play their strongest XI on the night.

The home side does not just have the most potent attack in Serie A, but also the league’s meanest defence. Cremonese, on the other hand, find themselves second worst in both categories. Whether it be on paper or otherwise, the clash is nothing short of a David vs Goliath struggle. The Hard Tackle looks at how both sides could line up on the night and what tactics they might employ.

Team News & Tactics

SSC Napoli

Luciano Spalletti’s men are averaging 2.66 points per game in Serie A and look set to shatter the 100-point barrier this season., Doing so will make them just the second side to achieve the feat in the history of the competition.

Buoyed by a scintillating attack, a hard-working midfield and a mean defence, Napoli are not just an impactful side but also easy on the eyes to watch. They are chasing a sixth straight Serie A win on Sunday and will not be short of confidence or momentum.

More so, playing in front of their home fans, they will be expected to firmly put Cremonese in their place. Spalletti has no injury concerns and can choose from the pool of his best players. The veteran manager is unlikely to deviate from the 4-3-3 formation that has brought his side much success this season.

Alex Meret will serve as the last line of defence, in between the sticks. He will be guarded by the back four of Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Amir Rrahmani, Kim Min-jae and Mario Rui. Possessing ample experience and dynamism, the rearguard is as good as it gets and will play a high line.

Stanislav Lobotka is set to be the anchor man in midfield, giving Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and particularly Piotr Zielinski the freedom to push forward. Seizing control of the midfield open up space for the side’s vaunted front three to wreak havoc.

Star striker Victor Osimhen continues to draw interest from the Premier League and is likely to lead the line on the night. He will be aided by the brilliant Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Hirving Lozano providing the width. Unless the trio can be shackled, they are likely to run riot against a side that is largely open at the back.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Kim, Rui; Anguissa, Lobotka, Zielinski; Lozano, Osimhen, Kvaratskhelia

US Cremonese

Davide Ballardini’s men have already come away from Naples with a win this season. But the shock result marks the high point of their disappointing season. Unlike in the Coppa Italia, Cremonese are likely to face a full-strength Napoli XI on the day and given from what we have seen, there is no tougher challenge in the Italian top flight today.

It will take a performance of the ages for the visitors to land a point let alone secure all three based on the current form. More so, they might have to make do without David Okereke and Cyriel Dessers, both of whom are a doubt for the game.

The visitors are without Cristian Buonaiuto and Luka Lochoshvili, both of whom are also doubts about the game. Felix Afena-Gyan has been prolific on the road this season and also found the back of the net against Napoli in the Cup. It remains to be seen if he will get the nod on the night.

Ballardini is likely to deploy his side in a 3-5-2 formation and crowd the midfield. By not allowing Napoli to see the middle of the park, Cremonese can cut off supply to the front three. Doing so is likely to see Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Hirving Lozano drop deeper, leaving Victor Osimhen isolated. Doing so should give the visitors a fighting chance of salvaging a result.

Marco Carnesecchi should start in goal behind the defensive trio of Matteo Bianchetti, Vlad Chiriches and Johan Vasquez. Leonardo Sernicola and Emanuele Valeri are likely to start outside and provide width. While they are likely to hold the line, their positioning also allows Ballardini to shift to a five-man backline should Napoli seize the initiative.

The trio of Michele Castagnetti, Soualiho Meite and Charles Pickel will form the backbone of the side in midfield, keeping things narrow and will aim to shackle the likes of Piotr Zielinski and co. The trio have a huge ask on their hands and will have to play out of their skin over the course of the 90 minutes.

Daniel Ciofani and Felix look set to lead the line. While it is extremely likely that the duo are in for a quiet night, a lot will depend on whether they can make the most of any half opportunity that comes their way.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Carnesecchi; Bianchetti, Chiriches, Vasquez; Sernicola, Pickel, Meite, Castagnetti, Valeri; Ciofani, Felix

Key Stats

  • A win on the night will see Napoli do their first league double over Cremonese. The former won the reverse fixture 4-1 earlier in the campaign. Napoli have not lost to Cremonese at home in 14 previous meetings over 90 minutes. Le Tigri, however, defeated their illustrious opponents on penalties in the Coppa Italia earlier this year.
  • Cremonese have found the back of the net just once in their seven Serie A trips to Naples. This happened all the way back in 1994, a fixture that the home side won 2-1.
  • Napoli have lost just two games across all competitions this season. This is only second to Bayern Munich across Eurtope’s top five leagues.
  • A win on the night will see Napoli record nine straight home wins for the first time in Serie A since 2016. The last time they achieved the feat in a single season was in 1989/90, the season when they last won the Scudetto title.
  • Cremonese are the only side in Serie A this season who are yet to win a single game in the league.

Player to Watch

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia

Embed from Getty Images

The Georgian international has been one of the best players in Europe, let alone Napoli. With a return of ten goals and 14 assists across 22 games in all competitions, the 21-year-old is a difficult player to keep quiet.

He is once again likely to be the club’s creator-in-chief, laying off opportunities and linking up well with Victor Osimhen in the attack. His ability to run into space and leave his marker for dead is likely to keep Cremonese on their toes.


SSC Napoli 3-0 US Cremonese

Both teams are in completely different worlds as far as their performances are concerned this season. With their first XI for and firing and home support to boot, Luciano Spalletti’s men are overwhelming favourites for the game. 

Anything less than a convincing win is difficult to imagine given the current circumstances. Neither side will change positions at the end of the weekend, but the difference between them is only likely to get wider.

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