The players returned from summer holiday with their families, have been training regularly and are now ready to hit the pitch once again for their respective clubs as the 2019/20 Serie A season commences this weekend in Italy.
For Round 1 of action, our attention turns to one of the opening weekend’s main events on the peninsula as Fiorentina play host to Napoli at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Firenze.
Here is everything you need to know ahead of the clash.
2018/19 Head-to-Head Recap (1-0 win for Napoli, 0-0 draw)
Last season, the two met for the first of two encounters on matchday 4, with Carlo Ancelotti’s Partenopei snagging all three points thanks to Lorenzo Insigne’s 79th minute goal. In the reverse fixture in early February, Napoli relished in a barrage of high-percentage goalscoring opportunities, but both Insigne and Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik proved too wasteful, ultimately having to settle with just the point at the Franchi. Certainly, Ancelotti expects the chances to pour on in much like last season, only this time hopes his attack can be more clinical in order to maximize their efforts.
Preview & Key Battle
Projected Fiorentina XI (4-3-3): Dragowski; Lirola, Milenkovic, Pezzella, Terzic; Benassi, Badelj, Pulgar; Chiesa, Boateng, Sottil
Projected Napoli XI (4-2-3-1): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Ruiz; Callejon, Zielinski, Insigne; Mertens
Vincenzo Montella’s return to the helm late last season did not go according to plan, but perhaps that was expected as the 45-year old was called upon to prevent Fiorentina from further free fall and a relegation nightmare they were shockingly headed towards by playing damage control. Luckily for the Viola, they avoided the drop by finishing safely in 16th, but this was no doubt a reality check and the wake up call the club needed heading into the summer where new owner Rocco Commisso’s ambition has already served the Tuscans well.
With this new vision at the top, and a slew of under-the-radar acquisitions, Fiorentina look to hit the ground running on a very pivotal campaign for the future. However, Ancelotti’s Napoli are back, arguably better than before, with a revitalized roster and even stronger appetite for domestic glory that could stand in the way of Montella delivering the home supporters a warm welcome to the 2019/20 season.
On personnel alone, Napoli hold the upper hand, with the projected double pivot of Fabián Ruiz and Allan shielding the defence and to demonstrate an ability to control a match altogether. La Viola have added some firepower to their attack this summer with Kevin Prince-Boateng and free agent Franck Ribery, though the former Bayern Munich star is an unlikely feature in this one as he lacks fitness and continues to acclimate after completing his move days ago. But, with Federico Chiesa bursting down the right flank and posing as a potent threat on the counter, Montella’s front three could open things up and put Napoli’s retooled back four in somewhat of a precarious situation if they aren’t careful. Without question, the central duo of Kalidou Koulibaly and Kostas Manolas will prove one tough wall to break, but if the expected fullbacks Faouzi Ghoulam and Giovanni Di Lorenzo are caught too far up the pitch, Napoli could be exposed. Knowing ‘KPB’, his makeup and how he operates, we should expect him to assert himself early on; playing the occasional backheel, pressing with energy and attempting to create through the middle as the ‘false 9′.
When it comes to the opening weekend of football, matchups tend to be a bit more difficult to gauge, for varying reasons. On occasion, clubs stumble out of the starting gate, looking perhaps a bit lethargic in an attempt to switch on after a prolonged period being switched off, rusty in certain technical aspects of the game and even extend beyond their what their capabilities early on. This is partially why predicting the outcome here is a battle. Though Fiorentina have done well lately to bolster their squad and are playing at home in what promises to be a more inspired atmosphere than last year, Napoli should be able to get in and get out with a 2-1 victory.
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