Having been thwarted in their attempt to re-take the Serie A summit, faltering Napoli visit Hellas Verona at Stadio Bentegodi on Sunday, needing a win to boost their Scudetto hopes.
Just one win in their last six all told leaves the Partenopei out of both Europe and the Coppa Italia, and trailing in the title race, while Verona have continued to impress – going unbeaten in four games since the start of February.
In a tussle for the leadership of Serie A last weekend, Napoli were edged out on home turf by an instinctive Olivier Giroud strike that gave Milan what may prove to be a crucial victory when the silverware is handed out in May.
Though Luciano Spalletti’s side pushed hard for an equaliser, they could not find a way past their visitors’ stubborn defence, and now trail both Milan clubs at the top of the standings.
With in-form Juventus also closing in – now sitting just four points behind – Napoli can afford few more slip-ups if they are to finally return the Scudetto to Campania after more than three decades.
Reports of fierce dressing room exchanges in the aftermath of their loss at Stadio Maradona indicates that the Partenopei still retain enough fight to maintain their challenge, and they will hope to continue a superb run of form on the road this Sunday.
Napoli have lost only one of their last 18 away games in the top flight (winning on 13 occasions), and that came against Inter in November. Also averaging two goals per game during that time, they were successful on their most recent away trip to Lazio, so will travel to Veneto expecting to return home with three points.
Held to a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture with Verona, though, their title credentials will surely be put to the test against one of Calcio’s most entertaining sides.
Unbeaten in their last three league games against Sunday’s visitors, Verona are sure to fancy their chances of extending that streak this weekend, given their form over recent weeks.
In 2022, Hellas have gained the fourth-most points in Serie A – 17 in nine matches – behind only Juventus, Milan and Napoli; scoring the league’s joint-most goals into the bargain.
Their improvement under head coach Igor Tudor has seen the ninth-placed Gialloblu pick up 26 points from 14 home matches in the current campaign – exactly the same tally as title-chasing Napoli have managed – while finding the net at a rate of more than two goals per game.
That also means they have already surpassed their 2020-21 mark of 24 points throughout the whole season at the Bentegodi, so home advantage clearly sees them lift their game.
A point away to Fiorentina last week helped the Scaligeri further consolidate their top-half spot, and though European qualification remains an improbable long-shot, Tudor has placed no limits on their ambition.
Having posted their best points tally after 28 games since 1995, Hellas fear no-one, and will relish their role as underdogs on Sunday.
Hellas Verona Serie A form:
Napoli Serie A form:
Napoli form (all competitions):
We say: Hellas Verona 2-2 Napoli
The last Serie A draw between Hellas Verona and Napoli at the Bentegodi was back in 1988, but that may well be the result this time around, as the hosts tend to excel on home soil and their visitors are resilient on the road.
It could be an entertaining encounter, too, with Napoli forced to push for a win and their opponents well capable of striking on the counter.