After spoiling AC Milan’s 120th birthday festivities last weekend at the San Siro, and winning midweek vs Brescia, Sassuolo return home to host Gennaro Gattuso’s Napoli where they hope to continue feeding the coin in the Azzurri’s rollarcoaster season.
Life in Naples did not get off to a roaring start for new boss Gennaro Gattuso last weekend. Gervinho and Dejan Kulusevski sawed the Partenopei open for two goals, with the Ivorian delivering a gut wrenching blow in the dying embers of the match to pick up the 2-1 win for Parma. Certainly, the Calabrese will look to rebound quickly and please his new boss Aurelio De Laurentiis with a positive result this Sunday against a Sassuolo side on the rise.
As Gattuso enters week two on the job, he is without question still feeling out the roster and trying to determine who fits best in his system. Though the 4-3-3 should remain largely unchanged, it will see at least one personnel switch at the back with Kalidou Koulibaly out for projected starter 23-year old Sebastiano Luperto.
The world class Senegalese defender has not enjoyed a strong season, uncharacteristically prone to errors and out of the form that stirred quite the debate on who was the best central defender in Europe today. After coming off with a hamstring injury, Koulibaly will need to be picked up by Luperto or Maksimovic and help restore some order to matters in the back where Napoli have leaked in far too many goals this season.
In the midfield, we can expect the same three of Piotr Zielinski, Allan and Fabian Ruiz to get starting nods, with perhaps the possibility of the Spaniard occupying the deeper role. Ruiz registered four shots last weekend vs Parma, two of which tested Luigi Sepe’s net. Spraying the ball around at 95% clip, expect the success of Napoli’s performance to rest on the shoulder of Ruiz.
Up front, Hirving Lozano is projected to replace José Callejon on the right wing, with Arkadiusz Milik and Lorenzo Insigne maintaining their starting positions from last weekend. Regardless of who spearheads Napoli’s attacking assault, they simply must improve their finishing and efficiency, concerns that have persisted for much of the campaign. In defeat to Parma, the San Paolo outfit launched 33 shots, only 8 of which found the target and 1 the back of the net. Napoli are getting in the right positions, but lack cutting edge and end product to make it all count.
Projected Sassuolo XI (4-2-3-1): Pegolo; Muldur, Romagna, Ferrari, Kyriakopoulos; Magnanelli, Locatelli; Berardi, Djuricic, Boga; Caputo.
Projected Napoli XI (4-3-3): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Luperto, Rui; Allan, Ruiz, Zielinski; Lozano, Milik, Insigne.
In previous years, Napoli would have been the heavy favorite in this fixture, but both times and performances have surely changed. As for Sassuolo, Roberto De Zerbi’s young side is hitting quite the patch of form, even if they have not been picking up wins. During these previous four matches, the Neroverdi earned draws against the following sides: Juventus (A, 2-2), Cagliari (H, 2-2) and AC Milan (A, 0-0). They also enter this challenge having won midweek 2-0 over Brescia.
Here are a few more key facts below:
- Napoli are unbeaten in their previous 6 meetings with Sassuolo, winning 3 and drawing 3.
- The Partenopei have failed to pick up a win in their last 8 Serie A matches.
- Sassuolo have conceded at least 2 goals in 5 of their last 6 home matches in Serie A.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to read what type of Napoli will show up each weekend. There is a certain sharpness they have lacked the entire season under Carlo Ancelotti and the one match Gattuso has been in charge. If it is not the defence committing costly errors, it is the midfield or attacking letting them down. Collectively however, Napoli simply have left much to be desired and until they turn in a performance more in line with previous seasons, it is hard to expect them to handle matters at Mapei Stadium in convincing fashion. Having said all this, there is belief in Gattuso getting a reaction from his men after losing at the death last Saturday, which is why this has the potential to be a scrappy fight and one with plenty of goals. Napoli’s back four will have their hands full with Jeremie Boga, Domenico Berardi and Francesco Caputo, but this will be where the winless streak is snapped.
Sassuolo 2-3 Napoli
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