Preview: Cagliari vs. Napoli 

Preview: Cagliari vs. Napoli 

Following up a pair of heavyweight draws at home and abroad, Scudetto hopefuls Napoli visit the more relaxed surrounds of Sardinia, as they take on improving Cagliari on Monday.

Former Partenopei coach Walter Mazzarri has helped the home side escape the relegation zone in recent weeks, while the visitors are in the thick of the title race after a run of four wins from their last six Serie A matches.

Though tinged with disappointment having taken the lead on both occasions, during the last week Napoli emerged from two of their toughest matches of the season still very much in the mix for honours.

Just days after their absorbing league encounter with Scudetto rivals Inter ended in a 1-1 draw – as the visitors’ Edin Dzeko equalised Lorenzo Insigne’s early penalty at Stadio Maradona – in midweek, they undertook the pilgrimage to Camp Nou.

In the ‘Maradona Derby’ with Barcelona, midfielder Piotr Zielinski was the man to give the Azzurri a one-goal advantage, but the hosts later drew level to leave the clubs’ Europa League playoff tie finely poised before Thursday’s second leg.

Ahead of their return to Naples, though, Luciano Spalletti’s men must make the trip to Sardinia, where they have won each of their last six league meetings with Cagliari – and Napoli have never before won seven matches in a row away to any opponent in Serie A.

In all, they are unbeaten in 22 of their last 23 matches against the Isolani in the top flight, while keeping 12 clean sheets in the process – something which Spalletti’s team have been particularly adept at doing this term.

After 2-0 away wins against both Bologna and Venezia, the visitors could now record three successive Serie A shutouts on the road for the first time in three years.

Indeed, they have conceded the fewest goals in Calcio’s top tier this season, and five of the last six sides to have let in 17 or fewer at this stage have gone on to win the title – the only exception being Napoli themselves back in 2018.

Since enjoying a golden spell in Naples between 2009 and 2013, Walter Mazzarri’s coaching career has experienced more lows than highs, but the former Inter and Watford boss is now rebuilding his reputation at Cagliari, who have been beaten only once in Serie A during 2022.

Winning three and drawing twice since the winter break, only unbeaten Napoli and Juventus have lost fewer since the turn of the year, and such form finally lifted them out of the bottom three earlier this month.

Having edged two of their last three games on the road by a 2-1 scoreline, the Rossoblu were held to a 1-1 at Empoli last weekend, as in-form striker Leonardo Pavoletti snatched a late equaliser at Stadio Carlo Castellani.

While their away form is certainly taking a turn for the better – one of seven previous defeats came against Napoli in September’s reverse fixture – Cagliari are now seeking to improve their results on home soil.

On Monday night they go in search of just a third win on Sardinian soil this term, but Mazzarri is aware that his team must protect their Achilles’ heel at all costs: Cagliari have conceded the most set-piece goals (20) in Serie A this season, while only Inter have racked up more than Napoli’s 17 from offensive set plays to date.
Cagliari Serie A form:
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Cagliari form (all competitions):
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Napoli Serie A form:
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Napoli form (all competitions):
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We say: Cagliari 0-2 Napoli
With one eye on the Europa League glamour tie taking place later in the week, Napoli have every right to be distracted, but three points are essential if they are to continue to challenge for the domestic title.

Some fresh faces in the starting XI and burgeoning confidence levels after recent results will help them get the job done, though, as they bring Cagliari’s unbeaten streak to an end.

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