Defending Serie A champions Napoli will look to get back to winning ways sooner rather than later when they host mid-table AC Monza at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Friday.

Napoli, who face AC Monza on Friday, were the feel-good football story of the first part of 2023, as they finally got over the line to secure their first league title in 33 years, since the era of Diego Maradona.

The first six months of the year were surreal, like something out of a fairytale, and the Neapolitans had to pinch themselves to believe what they were witnessing, with their club no longer bottling it in the crunch time but winning it by miles, with several games to spare.

However, the fall from grace in the second half of the year has been astounding. The 2-0 defeat away to AS Roma in the latest Derby del Sole last time out leaves Walter Mazzarri’s side in a very precarious position as they created little of note and a fiery game spilled over with both star striker Victor Osimhen and Matteo Politano picking red cards.

As it stands, Napoli sit seventh in the Serie A table. This sounds bad on paper. But they are only four points off of surprise package Bologna in fourth; the main objective now is rescuing a horrendous season.

As for the visitors, while Monza secured a much-needed 1-0 morale-boosting victory against Genoa earlier in the month, it appears it was only a slight lift for Raffaele Palladino’s team. The Biancorossi have fallen further down the Serie A standings after turning up a lacklustre effort at home against Fiorentina in a 1-0 loss. Prior to that, they suffered a routine 3-0 drubbing against AC Milan on December 17th.

Team News & Tactics


After an underwhelming performance against AS Roma last time out, Walter Mazzarri could shuffle his pack on Friday night. But he will have to make do without several stars, with Stanislav Lobotka (broken rib) and Natan (dislocated shoulder) emerging as the latest casualties from the Roma defeat.

Mathias Olivera is another definite absentee, while Eljif Elmas has recently secured a move to Bundesliga side RB Leipzig and won’t be part of Walter Mazzarri’s squad. Talismanic striker Victor Osimhen and winger Matteo Politano were sent off at the Olimpico and will serve bans, reducing Napoli’s attacking options here.

The team will still be well balanced, with some big guns likely to start. Giovanni Simeone and Giacomo Raspadori could come into the hosts’ frontline to support electric winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, who will be handed the freedom to wreak havoc in the opposition defence.

Mazzarri is expected to field a customary 4-3-3 formation, with first-choice Alex Meret starting in goal. He will be protected by the back four of Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Jorge Jesus, Amir Rrahmani, and Mario Rui.

The midfield will be anchored by Jens Cajuste in Lobotka’s absence, with support from Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Piotr Zielinski, who will be aiming to make effective late darts into the opponent’s penalty area to provide an additional goal-scoring threat.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Jesus, Rrahmani, Rui; Anguissa, Cajuste, Zielinski; Raspadori, Simeone, Kvaratskhelia


Monza will be unable to call upon former Sampdoria attacker Gianluca Caprari, who has not made a single appearance since September 17th and is currently recovering from an ACL tear. Raffaele Palladino’s troops will once again be sweating over the fitness of Andrea Carboni here after he missed out against Fiorentina last week and is dealing with a recent knock.

A 3-4-2-1 formation should be the formation for the visitors, with Michele Di Gregorio starting in goal. He should be protected by the backline of Danilo D’Ambrosio, Luca Caldirola, and Armando Izzo. Patrick Ciurria and Pedro Pereira should function as the flying wingbacks. Matteo Pessina could play from the start in this game and should hold the fort in midfield alongside Roberto Gagliardini.

Although Dany Mota has scored just a single Serie A strike in his first 16 top-flight outings this season, the 25-year-old should keep his spot, leading Monza’s charge this weekend. Andrea Colpani and Samuele Vignato are set to join him in the visitors’ attacking force.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Di Gregorio; D’Ambrosio, Caldirola, Izzo; Pereira, Gagliardini, Pessina, Ciurria; Colpani, Vignato; Mota

Monza XI vs Napoli

Key Stats

  • Napoli have recorded just two wins from their past seven appearances across all competitions.
  • Monza has lost three of their last four matches.
  • Napoli have failed to win four of their last five home league games.
  • Monza are unbeaten in four of their last six away Serie A matches.
  • Monza have conceded exactly one goal in four of their last six away league games.

Player to Watch

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia

Embed from Getty Images

Kvaratskhelia exploded onto the scene seemingly out of nowhere last season, but this campaign has been a real downer for the Georgian sensation. Still, he has managed eight goal contributions in 14 league starts for Napoli. In Osimhen’s absence, the 22-year-old could operate closer to goal and could return to scoring ways here, having notched just one goal in his previous seven appearances in all competitions.


Napoli 1-1 Monza

The Partenopei have plummeted to seventh in the standings on the back of a sorry string of results, although they have had a difficult run of games in December. Meanwhile, Monza are a resilient team away from home. But they will sense an opportunity to claim a shock result against the reigning champions, who will boast reduced attacking options here. They can also take inspiration from their 2-0 victory over Napoli at U-Power Stadium last May.

The Hard Tackle are backing Monza to avoid defeat in this clash, as Napoli look terribly out of form and Walter Mazzarri’s second spell in charge already looks set to fail. Turning their form around without AFCON-bound Victor Osimhen will not be an easy task at all. A 1-1 draw could be the outcome, given that Monza rarely concede more than one goal on their travels.

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