Napoli will be keen to get their title defence back on track when they travel to Bologna on Sunday
Fresh from their UEFA Champions League win over SC Braga on Matchday 1, Napoli will be seeking to get their Serie A title defence on track when they travel to the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara to face Bologna on Sunday night.
Rudi Garcia took on the unenviable task of managing the Gli Azzurri following Luciano Spalletti’s title winning campaign last time. They are currently five points off the top of the table and are also yet to hit top gear. It is fair to say that the jury is already out on the new Napoli boss.
They fell behind 2-0 to Genoa last time around before a late fightback saw them salvage a point. Napoli have secured just one point from their two league games since the international break, more or less clapping the brakes on their title defence.
The trip to Bologna will not be as easy as it might have been in the past and could see Napoli struggle to get into top gear. La Rossa have just five points from their opening four games and can leaplog Napoli in the standings should they secure a win on the night.
As things stand, Napoli go into the game as favourites but are vulnerable. Bologna certainly spring a surprise of their own and will be hoping to secure back to back home wins in Serie A for the first time in 2023. The Hard Tackle looks at how both sides could line up on Sunday and what tactics they might employ.
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Thiago Motta’s side were held to a 0-0 draw against Hellas Verona last time around and have just one win from their opening four games in Serie A. While it will not be easy, La Rossa will hope to catch an out-of-sorts Napoli off guard and overtake them in the league standings.
However, they will have to do so without AC Milan loanee Alexis Saelemaekers, who is still sidelined alongside Adama Soumaoro, who is not expected to return to action until the start of 2024. The former could still make the bench if he passes a late fitness test but is unlikely to make the starting XI.
The 4-2-3-1 system appears to be on the cards for the night with Lukasz Skorupski in goal. The back four of Stefan Posch, Sam Beukema, Jhon Lucumi and Victor Kristiansen.
Michel Aebischer and Remo Freuler should hold the fort in midfield, giving the trio of Jesper Karlsson, Lewis Ferguson and Dan Ndoye the freedom to push forward. They will aim to create chances for Joshua Zirkzee who will lead the line upfront.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Skorupski; Posch, Beukema, Lucumi, Kristiansen; Freuler, Aebischer; Ndoye, Ferguson, Karlsson; Zirkzee
The Scudetto holders are yet to find their top form and lack the attacking nous shown last season. The win over Braga earlier in the week was timely but did little to gloss over what was an unconvincing performance. A stronger side can certainly punish Napoli, leaving them with much distance to cover in the title defence.
Inter Milan are the team to beat this season and have a hundred percent point tally so far. Unless Napoli pull up their socks soon, the Nerazzurri could build up a point cushion that can prove difficult to bridge.
Rudi Garcia should have a largely fit squad to pick from, with the exception of Amir Rrahmani who withdrew from the win against Braga with an injury. With games coming thick and fast, Matteo Politano and Giacomo Raspadori could potentially be brought into the playing XI.
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Garcia is likely to retain his 4-3-3 formation, with Alex Meret in goal. Giovanni Di Lorenzo scored midweek and should retain his spot in the backline alongside Leo Ostigard, Juan Jesus and Mario Rui in the backline.
Stanislav Lobotka should hold the central midfield with Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Piotr Zielinski responsible for progressing the ball. Giacomo Raspadori should come in for Matteo Politano while Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia retain their spots upfront.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Ostigard, Jesus, Rui; Anguissa, Lobotka, Zielinski; Raspadori, Osimhen, Kvaratskhelia
- Napoli have scored 194 goals in 128 Serie A games against Bologna, the most they have against another opponent in the Italian top flight. Both teams have faced off 128 times with Napoli winning 49 games and Bologna coming out on top 41 times. The remaining 38 Matches have ended in a draw.
- A draw on Sunday will see both teams enjoy consecutive draws for the first time since 1980.
- Bologna have won just one of their last seven home games in Serie A against Napoli, all the way back in 2019.
- Bologna have drawn ten of their 27 games in Serie A this year. Only Salernitana have earned more stalemates in 2023 among Italian top flight clubs.
- A win on the night will see Bologna win consecutive home games in Serie A for the first time since 2022.
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The Nigerian international enjoyed a fruitful international break and also put in a match-winning performance against SC Braga. However, with Khvicha Kvaratskhelia failing to reproduce last season’s numbers, the onus to shoulder the goalscoring burden falls on Osimhen.
The Napoli talisman is the most lethal player on the pitch and is expected to play a key role in any meaningful attack the visitors make on the night. As long as he is in top form, the Partenopei will take some stopping.
Bologna FC 1909 1-1 SSC Napoli
Bologna might have won just once this season but are far from pushovers. Napoli will be tired from their midweek exertions and given their lack of top form this season, could struggle to change gears. All signs point to a scoring draw with both teams sharing the spoils.