Preview: Napoli vs. Hellas Verona

Preview: Napoli vs. Hellas Verona

Sandwiched between both legs of their Champions League quarter-final tie, Napoli return to domestic duty on Saturday, hosting Hellas Verona at Stadio Maradona.

Edged out by Milan in midweek, the Partenopei retain a 16-point lead at the top of the Serie A standings, while Hellas sit inside the relegation zone with only nine games remaining.

Despite starting in a typical blaze of attacking fury on Wednesday evening, Napoli were defeated by Milan for the second time in a fortnight and will be faced with a one-goal deficit when the teams reconvene in Campania next week.

Stung by a breakaway goal shortly before the break, Luciano Spalletti’s side then saw Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa sent off for a second booking and – even though they could still have equalised on a couple of occasions – a third loss in seven outings was the final outcome.

Having also been beaten 4-0 by Milan in the league not long after losing to Lazio, Napoli have suffered defeats in two of their last three home games in Serie A: as many as in their previous 20.

As a result, their charge towards a first Scudetto for three decades has slowed ever so slightly, but last week’s 2-1 win at Lecce helped them reach 74 points after 29 rounds – the club’s best ever tally at this stage of a season.

Without the prolific presence of star striker Victor Osimhen, who has recently been sidelined by injury, the Partenopei have scored only twice in their last three matches, which contrasts starkly with their previous output.

Now faced by a team yet to win away from home in 2022-23, Napoli will aim to get back on track by beating Verona for a third straight time and take one more stride towards the title.

In their long history, Verona have only ever won twice away to Napoli in Serie A, and their last success in Naples came as long ago as January 1983; in 17 games since, there have been 13 defeats and four draws.

The Scaligeri did, though, win their most recent top-flight outing, 2-1 against Sassuolo, with a late fightback sparked by Federico Ceccherini’s equaliser being completed by a stoppage-time winner from substitute striker Adolfo Gaich.

Drawing them within four points of safety – that is the gap that now separates them from 17th-placed Spezia – survival seems as if it could still be within reach for Marco Zaffaroni’s side.

However, Hellas have not posted successive Serie A wins since the start of last year and possess a truly terrible away record over recent months – only five points on the road this season makes theirs the worst in the division.

Under several different coaches, throughout turmoil at Stadio Bentegodi during the post-Igor Tudor era, they have not won any of their last 15 away games – the club’s worst such run for seven years.

Napoli Serie A form:

Napoli form (all competitions):

Hellas Verona Serie A form:

We say: Napoli 2-1 Hellas Verona
Though they have won seven straight Serie A away fixtures, Napoli’s recent troubles have come under the scrutiny of their demanding home fans at Stadio Maradona.

Played between two huge games for the Campanian club, Saturday’s visit of Verona may therefore be a less straightforward proposition than it seems on paper, yet three points should still be theirs come the final whistle.

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