Napoli will travel to Hellas Verona on Saturday with an aim to infuse fresh life into their faltering Serie A title defence.
Napoli travel to Hellas Verona this Saturday knowing full well that their title defence has hit choppy waters. Unless the holes are plugged, there is every reason to believe that the ship will go down with all hands on board.
Rudi Garcia had the unenviable task of replacing Luciano Spalletti, who left the club on a high at the end of the 2022/23 season. Napoli lost Kim Min-jae in the summer, and the controversy surrounding Victor Osimhen has taken the focus off the field for the defending champions.
La Dea have already tasted defeat twice this season and find themselves seven points off early trendsetters AC Milan in the race for the Scudetto. Any points they drop in the coming weeks could see them enter a point of no return as far as winning a second straight Scudetto is concerned.
Verona, on the other hand, have other worries and will be keen to put as much distance as they can from the relegation zone. The home side have gone four games without a goal and are just four points off the bottom three.
Given that they staved off relegation by just goal difference last season, Marco Baroni will be aware that the smallest of margins could make the difference come May 2024. The Hard Tackle looks at how both sides could line up on Sunday and what tactics they might employ.
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#Dimarco dà il via alla rimonta 💪
— Hellas Verona FC (@HellasVeronaFC) October 20, 2023
While Hellas Verona have won just once in their last 12 Serie A games against Napoli, they have successfully held the defending champions to a stalemate on several occasions. With Rudi Garcia’s side faltering, Marco Baroni will be keen to take advantage.
The home side are also blessed with a smaller injury list as both Pawel Dawidowicz and Isak Hien are back in contention. As things stand, only Josh Doig is a doubt for the game. Scoring goals has been a major concern for Verona, and Baroni will have decisions to make on the night.
A 3-4-2-1 formation is the way forward this weekend, with Lorenzo Montipo in goal. Pawel Dawidowicz, Isak Hien and Giangiacomo Magnani should provide the rearguard action, acting as the last line of defence before Montipo.
Michael Folorunsho and Ondrej Duda should hold the fort in midfield, with Darko Lazovic and Filippo Terracciano providing impetus down the flanks. Tomas Suslov and Cyril Ngonge should act as dual number tens, while Federico Bonazzoli should start upfront.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Montipo; Dawidowicz, Hien, Magnani; Terracciano, Duda, Folorunsho, Lazovic; Suslov, Ngonge; Bonazzoli
The defending champions have long since shed their armour of invincibility. They now looked ripe for the taking, and FIorentina did just that last time around.
Rudi Garcia has an uphill task to get his players going after what has been a string of performances that is a far cry from their dominant outings last season. Controversies surrounding Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s loss of form have also been major factors that have dented Napoli’s title defence.
Osimhen picked up a hamstring injury while on international duty and now faces six weeks out on the sidelines. His absence will be a major blow for the visitors given the drop-off between him and other alternatives on the list to don the number nine’s role.
📺 Guarda in diretta la conferenza di Mister Garcia: https://t.co/WC4vTVkxbz
— Official SSC Napoli (@sscnapoli) October 20, 2023
Midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa is recovering from a thigh injury, while Juan Jesus is also out of contention. However, Amir Rrahmani is back in training and could return to the starting XI on the night.
One constant that Garcia is unlikely to tamper with is the 4-3-3 formation. Alex Meret should start in goal behind the back four of Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Amir Rrahmani, Natan and Mario Rui. Stanislav Lobotka should start as the number six in midfield with Jens Cajuste and Piotr Zielinski acting as ball carriers.
In Osimhen’s absence, Giovanni Simeone should get the nod upfront to lead the line for Napoli against Hellas Verona. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia will reprise his role on the left flank with Matteo Politano on the other wing.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Natan, Rui; Cajuste, Lobotka, Zielinski; Politano, Simeone, Kvaratskhelia
- Hellas Verona have won 13 of their 60 Serie A games against SSC Napoli so far. They boast of more wins in the competition only against ACF Fiorentina and Cagliari Calcio (14 each).
- The last time that Napoli and Hellas Verona drew a Serie A game at the Bentegodi Stadium was in 1988.
- Hellas Verona are currently on a four-game scoreless streak in Serie A. This is their longest such run since an 11-game run in 2022-23.
- A loss on Saturday will see Napoli lose back-to-back Serie A games for the first time since 2021.
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In Victor Osimhen’s absence, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia will be Napoli’s primary attacking threat. The Albanian was one of Serie A’s best players last season but has failed to hit the same levels this time around.
With Osimhen now out, he will need to step up his game and fill that goal-scoring void. The 22-year-old is an excellent match-winner when in top form, and it remains to be seen if he can rise to expectations.
Hellas Verona 1-1 SSC Napoli
While Napoli are the favourites, they are woefully off form and will also be without their chief goalscorer. Verona will get stuck in and also will have several players back from injury. It should be a hard-fought game with both sides settling for a point, more or less taking the air out of the visitors’ chances of retaining their title.