Defending champions Napoli will host Scudetto favourites Inter Milan at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in what promises to be an action-packed affair on Sunday night.
Inter Milan will be looking to reclaim their spot at the top of the Serie A table when they make the trip to Naples to face defending champions Napoli on Sunday.
Although Napoli might have made real history last season as they claimed their first Serie A crown since 1990, their Scudetto defence is not going according to plan this season. The current campaign has not been a complete disaster. But they have already lost three times this season after 13 games, just one fewer than suffered in the entirety of 2023/24.
As a result, they find themselves in fourth place in the table, eight points adrift of second-placed Inter Milan. They earned a crucial win in Bergamo in Walter Mazzarri’s first game in charge of his second stint at the club, as Eljif Elmas scored late off the bench to seal a 2-1 victory.
However, Walter Mazzarri’s side came crashing back down to earth in midweek, suffering a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Real Madrid, which yet again highlights that the one-time Inter Milan boss has a real job on his hands to get the house back in order in Naples.
Inter, meanwhile, come into Sunday’s match unbeaten in their last seven league assignments (W5 D2). In fact, the Nerazzurri have lost just once in Serie A so far this season, bouncing back in resounding fashion since seeing their perfect start ended by Sassuolo in round six.
The visitors’ comeback draws against Juventus and Benfica have certainly proven their mettle. But the former, in particular, now means that three points are an absolute must this Sunday. Inter’s two-point lead over Bianconeri has disappeared after Juve beat Monza 2-1 on Friday night. So, anything less than a win means Inter would find themselves playing catch up in second spot despite a marauding start to the season.
Tactics and Team News
Napoli are facing a crisis at left-back, as Mathias Olivera was stretchered off in the first half of their win at Atalanta, joining Mario Rui on the sidelines. Juan Jesus is the likely player to come in given his versatility, while Amir Rrahmani and Natan are set to start in the centre. Giovanni Di Lorenzo, meanwhile, is a guaranteed starter at right-back.
Victor Osimhen made his long-awaited comeback in last weekend’s win against Atalanta, coming off the bench shortly after the hour mark and assisting the winning goal. Last season’s Capocannoniere has been out of commission since suffering a hamstring injury on Nigeria duty last month.
The Nigerian striker could replace Giovanni Simeone in the starting XI. Georgia international Khvicha Kvaratskhelia will also play a leading role in attack this weekend, having notched four strikes in as many appearances for the club and country.
Napoli may be forced to make a midfield change after Piotr Zielinski hobbled off in Madrid on Wednesday night. So, last week’s match-winner, Eljif Elmas, is in line to replace him in the playing XI. Stanislav Lobotka will operate at the base of Napoli’s 4-3-3. Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, however, is expected to operate in a slightly advanced midfield role, looking to provide the numbers going forward.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Natan, Jesus; Anguissa, Lobotka, Elmas; Politano, Osimhen, Kvaratskhelia
Alessandro Bastoni is the big injury absentee for Inter after a calf injury, which saw him miss Italy’s recent internationals, ruled him out for a month. That was yet another defensive injury for Simone Inzaghi to deal with after Benjamin Pavard’s gruesome knee problem sidelined him.
So, Matteo Darmian, Stefan de Vrij, and Francesco Acerbi should continue in the central defensive unit in front of Yann Sommer. Inter will field the same starting XI that faced Juventus last week in a 1-1 draw, with various starters benefiting from rest against Benfica in midweek.
Attacking wing-backs Denzel Dumfries and Federico Dimarco could come back into the starting lineup and will be required to bomb up-and-down to offer width and potentially deliver high-quality crosses into the box.
In midfield, Kristjan Asllani, Davide Frattesi, and Carlos Augusto might make way for the returning trio of Nicolo Barella, Hakan Calhanoglu, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The Turkish playmaker will operate at the heart of Inter’s 3-5-2, looking to instigate his side’s build-up and circulate the ball around the park.
Finally, in attack, 13-goal top scorer Lautaro Martinez is a guaranteed starter and will be refreshed after being handed a rest in midweek. He could be partnered by Marcus Thuram, who will replace Marko Arnautovic in the central striker role.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Sommer; Darmian, De Vrij, Acerbi; Dumfries, Barella, Calhanoglu, Mkhitaryan, Dimarco; Thuram, Martinez
- Inter Milan are undefeated in their last seven Serie A matches.
- In fact, the visitors have suffered just a single defeat from their first 18 appearances across all competitions.
- Napoli have failed to win any of their last five straight home fixtures across all competitions.
- Inter Milan have kept the highest number of clean sheets this Serie A season (8).
- Inter Milan have won nine of their last 11 Serie A games, but one of the failures was a defeat to Napoli.
Player to Watch
Inter have scored 13 of their 30 goals this season on the road, and a big driving force behind their splendid attacking output this season is the red-hot form of star striker Lautaro Martinez, who has been almost unplayable at times and even found the net in a scrappy affair against Juventus the last time out.
Really firing on all cylinders, the Argentine striker is currently the leading goalscorer in Serie A with a tally of 13 and should be smelling a potential opportunity against a Napoli defence that has looked a bit shaky at times.
Napoli 1-2 Inter Milan
This is another difficult away game for the Nerazzurri, but the character they showed to rescue a point in Lisbon after being 3-0 down at half-time with lots of fringe stars shows the improved mentality levels of this side.
Despite the fact that Inter Milan have failed to beat Napoli in the last three meetings, the defending champions are going through a transition. In addition, their home form has been woeful, collecting a meagre seven points from six games. With that in mind, the Nerazzurri should remain favourites to win. But it could be a very tight game in terms of the scoreline.