Preview: Napoli vs. Fiorentina 

Preview: Napoli vs. Fiorentina 

Still in contention for their first Scudetto since 1990, Napoli face one of their toughest remaining tests on Sunday, as they welcome Fiorentina to Stadio Maradona.

Three wins on the spin have helped the Partenopei pull within a point of the Serie A summit, while their latest visitors also claimed victory last weekend – edging out Empoli in a Tuscan derby.

After a 3-1 win over Atalanta last Sunday, when they took a two-goal lead before half time, Napoli’s pursuit of a long-awaited title remains tantalisingly close for the club’s loyal fanbase, and they have bounced back from a potentially critical defeat to Milan in some style.

Having previously beaten both Verona and Udinese 2-1, Luciano Spalletti’s side have picked up more points in Serie A during the second half of the season (27, with eight wins, three draws and just that one defeat) than any other team.

Their success in Bergamo last week means that they have still lost only one league match outside of Naples this term – winning 11 times in the process – and are still three points clear of third-placed Inter.

At home, though, Napoli have won only three of their last eight league games. Indeed, four of their five Serie A defeats this season have been at the Maradona, where they have only the seventh-best home record in the division: 29 points from 15 games.

Following a 2-1 victory in October’s reverse fixture, the Azzurri have won their last three games against Fiorentina in Serie A – scoring at least two goals on each occasion – so should be confident of improving that record on Sunday afternoon.

Napoli last managed four in a row versus the Viola back in the glory days between 1988 and 1990, and as they attempt to emulate that side by lifting the Scudetto next month, another win could prove vital to their cause.

Since Fiorentina’s 6-0 crushing by Sunday’s opponents back in January 2021 – the club’s heaviest top-flight defeat in 15 years – much has changed in Florence, and Vincenzo Italiano’s current side are winning both points and plaudits for their positive approach this season.

After claiming a point against reigning champions Inter just before the international break, the Viola resumed with victory in the Derby dell’Arno last week; consigning Empoli to a 1-0 defeat through Nicolas Gonzalez’s goal, scored just moments after their Tuscan rivals were reduced to 10 men.

As a result, they have accrued 14 points from their last seven matches and sit eighth in the Serie A standings – four points behind Roma in the final European qualification spot, but with a game in hand.

Aspirations of a return to continental football will be tempered, however, by the knowledge that the upcoming fixture list pits Fiorentina against Milan, Roma and Juventus – not to mention their trip to Naples this weekend.

If they wish to break into the top six by the campaign’s climax, then, Italiano may have to solve his side’s defensive deficiencies sooner rather than later, as only Hellas Verona and Salernitana have posted fewer clean sheets on the road than their tally of one, which came way back in September.

In fact, Fiorentina have conceded in each of their last 11 games away from home, and should they fail to keep Napoli at bay for 90 minutes, they will reach 12 in the same season for the first time since 2010.

Napoli Serie A form:
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Napoli form (all competitions):
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Fiorentina Serie A form:
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Fiorentina form (all competitions):
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We say: Napoli 1-0 Fiorentina
In this meeting between the two teams with the highest average possession of the Serie A season – Napoli with 59% and Fiorentina on 57% – the fight for midfield supremacy could be integral to either side’s success.

If they can win that tussle, the hosts are best placed to claim all three points from a close-fought affair, as their greater individual ability in attack can make the difference once again.

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