Already confirmed in Serie A’s top four, Napoli welcome relegation-threatened Genoa to Stadio Maradona on Sunday, with their visitors in desperate need of points to survive.
Though their Scudetto hopes recently came to an end, the home side have won back-to-back games since, while their Ligurian counterparts pulled off an improbable victory over Juventus to keep the dream alive.
With only the minor consolation of third place still to play for, following their costly implosion at Empoli last month, Napoli are in pole position to pip old rivals Juventus to a podium place after the events of last weekend.
As Juve dropped points against the Azzurri’s next opponents, Luciano Spalletti’s side were able to grind out a 1-0 win at Torino; taking a four-point lead over the Old Lady with just two rounds remaining.
A 73rd-minute strike from Spanish midfielder Fabian Ruiz sealed Napoli’s 12th away success of the Serie A season, further adding to a record which is the division’s second-best in that regard.
The Campanian club are therefore on track for a top-three finish for the first time in three years, but by contrast, their form at home has been relatively modest in Spalletti’s first year – already featuring five league losses at the Maradona.
Among the top seven teams in the table, Napoli have collected the fewest points from home fixtures this season, and it is only the second time in their last 15 Serie A seasons that they have suffered as many defeats in Naples.
However, having swapped the defensive efficiency which characterised the first half of their campaign for a more open approach – with veteran forward Dries Mertens drafted in as a regular starter behind the front three – Napoli have scored 19 times in their last eight matches.
While they have averaged nearly 2.5 goals per game in that spell, holding Torino goalless last time out represented their first clean sheet in 12 league games, so Genoa can travel south with justified hope of breaching their hosts’ back line.
Beaten 2-1 by Napoli in last August’s reverse fixture, Genoa have actually lost fewer matches than several sides higher up the standings so far this season, despite their lowly position heading into the penultimate game.
Alexander Blessin’s side still sit second from bottom in Serie A, but two wins out of their last three – including a spectacular late comeback last weekend – means they retain hope of surviving the drop; now just two points short of 17th.
Long-serving captain Domenico Criscito had missed from the penalty spot in the Grifone’s 1-0 loss to local rivals Sampdoria a few days earlier but stepped up to convert from 12 yards against Juventus last Friday – snatching three points for his side with the final kick of the game.
Naturally, the Marassi was shaken to its foundations by jubilant Genoa fans, as substitute Albert Gudmundsson had only equalised Paulo Dybala’s opener three minutes from the end of normal time.
They may have summoned up such a miraculous double strike to bounce straight from Derby della Lanterna defeat, but the Rossoblu have still scored five fewer goals than any other team in Serie A this term.
Not only that, but they have also failed to score in each of their last four away games and would go five-in-a-row for the first time since 1993 if they cannot break down their hosts on Sunday.
Napoli Serie A form:
Genoa Serie A form:
We say: Napoli 1-1 Genoa
Napoli are unbeaten in their last 12 home meetings with Genoa in Serie A – winning on eight occasions and keeping a clean sheet in four of the last five – so precedent is certainly on their side.
They have not been impregnable on home soil this term, though, and the combination of Blessin’s organisation and belief from the fightback against Juve could spur the Grifone on to take a potentially precious point.