Gennaro Gattuso and his Napoli stunned their hated rivals Juventus last weekend at home with a 2-1 win, a result the Partenopei undoubtedly hope to ride and build momentum from as they pay Sampdoria a visit on Monday.
At this point of the season, with the title far beyond their reach, Napoli now must set their sights on sneaking into the top four or, at the bare minimum, snagging themselves a Europa League spot. Last weekend’s 2-1 win over Juventus may be exactly what was needed for the Azzurri to get back on track and make a serious push up the table.
On Monday, Gennaro Gattuso’s side head to the Stadio Luigi Ferraris to take on Sampdoria in a match some are calling ‘the Polish Derby’ for the abundance of Polish internationals on display.
Three Poles in total are set to feature, including Piotr Zielinski and Arkadiusz Milik for the visitors from Naples and newly turned 25 year old Karol Linetty suiting up for the Blucerchiati.
For Napoli – sitting 11th in the table, five points from 6th and 12 from 4th – their objectives have been clearly defined. As for Claudio Ranieri and his Samp, gaining some separation from the bottom three remains priority and a positive result here would go a long way in ensuring their safety.
Napoli conducted their fare share of business during last month’s winter market, adding the likes of midfielders Stanislav Lobotka and Diego Demme, the latter who is expected to get the starting nod in this one.
The 28-year old defensive midfielder arrived over from RB Leipzig and is still looking to have his first real significant performance in the middle of the park. Ruiz and Zielinski often like to push forward and assert themselves by either picking a pass or penetrating into the final third to create that final ball into the forward men. Look for Demme to play a key role in this one.
Defensively, Gattuso is expected to roll with a central tandem of Luperto and Maksimovic, this despite having both Manolas and Koulibaly on the roster. Given how sporadically Napoli defend this season, it is hard to predict just how well they will show up against a Samp side who, while they aren’t relishing in a big production year for Fabio Quagliarella, do have a few players who can hurt them in the attacking end.
Up front, the attacking trio of Callejon, Milik and Insigne are set to start. The Polish international leads Napoli in domestic scoring with 7 goals and serves as the focal point up front for the two wide players to play.
Callejon and Insigne enjoyed a good amount of success last weekend vs Juventus, combining on the Italian’s goal which wound up being the match-winner after Cristiano Ronaldo pulled one back late. In his last four games across all competitions, Insigne has scored four goals, hinting that perhaps he could be the difference in breaking down a Samp side who tend to be a bit more defensively solid in their own yard.
Napoli squad: Meret, Ospina, Karnezis; Mario Rui, Luperto, Maksimovic, Di Lorenzo, Hysaj, Koulibaly, Manolas; Demme, Allan, Elmas, Zielinski, Lobotka; Callejon, Llorente, Lozano, Mertens, Politano, Insigne, Milik.
Projected Napoli XI (4-3-3): Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Maksimovic, Mario Rui; Ruiz, Demme, Zielinski; Callejon, Milik, Insigne
STATS AND FACTS
- Napoli have won 7 of their last 8 matches against Sampdoria in all competitions.
- Napoli have scored at least 2 goals in 9 of their last 10 matches against Sampdoria in all competitions.
- Napoli have outscored Sampdoria 14 to 7 in the two sides previous six meetings combined in all competitions.
- Napoli are averaging 56% possession to Sampdoria’s 44% through 21 matches each.
Napoli are without question coming off their biggest result of the season, so it is only natural to believe they will begin building momentum from this point forward. But, this season has been far too turbulent from them that conventional wisdom may not be applicable. Yet, what does work in their favor is their improved fitness and the return to normalcy by having key players coming back each week. While Koulibaly, Manolas or Meret aren’t likely to get nods, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the general vibe around the squad is more upbeat and that bodes well for Napoli to put in a real positive showing away.
As was mentioned, Samp typically feed off their home crowd, and as a result, can make matters uncomfortable for opposing sides. However, this feels like the kind of match Napoli will have to grind out and get their hands dirty if they want to leave victorious. Gattuso’s grinta will trickle down and ensure that is the case.
Sampdoria 1-2 Napoli
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