Preview: Napoli vs. Fiorentina

Preview: Napoli vs. Fiorentina

Level on points in the Serie A standings, Napoli and Fiorentina return from European duty to battle it out for victory at Stadio Maradona on Sunday.

In the final fixture before Italy’s top flight is paused and international football intervenes, the champions aim to bounce back from an eventful Champions League loss, while their visitors arrive in Naples on a six-match unbeaten streak.

Welcoming former coach Carlo Ancelotti back to Campania, Napoli hosted Real Madrid on Tuesday night, when they took the lead through Leo Ostigard’s header but then conceded twice before half time.

The Italian champions hauled themselves level shortly after the break, as Piotr Zielinski equalised from the penalty spot following a long VAR review. However, Real’s Federico Valverde later hammered in a thunderous strike that went into the net via goalkeeper Alex Meret, consigning Napoli to a 3-2 defeat.

Nonetheless, after beating Udinese 4-1 and Lecce 4-0 in their previous two league fixtures – with star striker Victor Osimhen scoring in both – the Partenopei have now racked up no fewer than 10 goals in their last three outings and seem to have shaken off a sluggish start to their title defence.

Fourteen points from seven Serie A matches represents an acceptable haul at this stage, particularly as Rudi Garcia settles into life in the Stadio Maradona dugout after succeeding Scudetto-winning coach Luciano Spalletti during the summer.

Only behind the league-leading Milan clubs approaching the latest international break, Napoli now take on a club they have had the better of in recent years – particularly during the first half of the season.

Curiously, they are unbeaten in 15 league meetings with Fiorentina played before the winter break, winning on 10 occasions since October 2007, when Christian Vieri’s goal split the sides.

Having won just one of their last six Serie A matches against Napoli ahead of their trip down south, Fiorentina may not be favourites to prevail on that basis, but recent form suggests they can cause the champions some problems.

Vincenzo Italiano’s side have also accrued 14 points so far, and since a four-goal loss to Inter in early September they have gone undefeated in all competitions – winning three times and recording three draws.

Following hot on the heels of a 3-0 result against bottom side Cagliari on Monday, when Nicolas Gonzalez and M’Bala Nzola scored either side of an own goal, the Viola returned to Europa Conference League action at Stadio Franchi in midweek.

Having let victory slip through their fingers against Genk in their Group F opener, Fiorentina found themselves two down to Ferencvaros after an hour but showed spirit to snatch a point through goals from Antonin Barak and Jonathan Ikone – the latter volleying home deep into stoppage time following a Gonzalez assist.

By contrast with their travails on Thursday night, the Tuscan club have got off to several fast starts in Serie A this season, and under attack-minded coach Italiano they have scored more goals during the first half (11) than any other side.

Fiorentina have also found the net four times in the first 15 minutes of play, so Napoli cannot afford to suffer from a Champions League hangover this weekend.

Napoli Serie A form:

Napoli form (all competitions):

Fiorentina Serie A form:

Fiorentina form (all competitions):

We say: Napoli 2-2 Fiorentina
With both teams scoring freely at the moment, goals are surely guaranteed at Stadio Maradona on Sunday evening. Napoli can certainly expect to capitalise on Fiorentina’s defensive vulnerabilities, but they may not be able to keep the back door fastened shut.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *