This round was a little light in terms of big matches, but the most anticipated one, Fiorentina-Napoli, delivered from an entertainment standpoint even though it ended with no goals.
The Viola came into the game having tied in three of the previous four games and looking for a big result that could boost them in the Europa League race, while the Partenopei squashed Sampdoria last week, but had dropped points in the two previous road fixtures against the Milan teams.
With Nikola Milenkovic and Marco Benassi suspended, Vincent Laurini injured and Vitor Hugo banged up, Stefano Pioli switched to a 3-5-2 with Federico Ceccherini and David Hancko flanking German Pezzella in the back, Bryan Dabo covering the whole right flank and Gerson supporting Federico Chiesa and Luis Muriel up front. Carlo Ancelotti chose Elseid Hysaj at right back, picked Nikola Maksimovic to replace Raul Albiol, used Fabian Ruiz centrally, which will be the case more often than not if Marek Hamsik leaves for China, and inserted Dries Mertens over Arkadiusz Milik. Mario Rui subbed off after just three minutes, with Faouzi Ghoulam replacing him.
The guests began pushing right away and created the first opportunity, as a square ball from the left-hand side of the box was palmed centrally by Alban Lafont, but Lorenzo Insigne bungled the tap-in. Few minutes later, Faouzi Ghoulam connected with Dries Mertens on a gorgeous long cross, but the Belgian attacker’s flying deflection was too timid and easily saved by Lafont.
After the first chance by the Gigliati, a wide shot by Federico Chiesa from difficult position, Mertens shook free in the box and picked out José Callejon on the far post, but the Spaniard sent it over the bar. Jordan Veretout challenged Alex Meret with a powerful half volley, but the goalkeeper answered the bell.
Mertens frittered away another point-blank opportunity late in the first half, similar to the previous one, but closer to the goal on a flick-on by Piotr Zielinski: the Belgian opted for a soft flying touch from inside the six-yard box and Lafont was able to put his hands on the ball again.
The script did not change much in the second half, with Napoli creating the best chances to score and the young Fiorentina goalie denying them. Zielinski had a superb one trailing the action on a square ball by Callejon, but Lafont palmed the shot away after a super quick dive. Chiesa could not find the target, this time on a volley from the edge of the box.
The rhythm understandably decreased late, but the Partenopei kept firing away, as Ruiz almost put it in the left top corner from downtown. Pioli quickly lost the sub Kevin Mirallas due to injury and Pezzella finished the game hobbling in the middle of pitch.
Callejon and Milik almost replicated the goal they had last week, but the Spaniard’s pass was just a little too advanced and the slide by the centre-forward ended up in the side netting. Milik had the final chance from deep, but Lafont saved again.
Fiorentina are now 10th, six points behind the sixth position, while Napoli return 11 points back from Juventus. No goals and therefore no points for attackers, but the two goalies amassed seven and most of the defenders five for the clean sheets.
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