Preview: Napoli vs. Inter Milan

Preview: Napoli vs. Inter Milan

After sealing a place in the Champions League final at their arch-rivals expense, Inter Milan now aim for a ninth straight win when they visit Napoli, who are still celebrating being crowned Serie A champions.

While the Azzurri have tailed off in recent weeks, they have a first Scudetto for 33 years to cherish; Inter’s eyes are on an even bigger prize, but they must first secure a top-four league finish.

Completing the job by earning a fourth straight Derby della Madonnina victory on Tuesday night, Inter pushed past Milan and into their first Champions League final since the treble-winning team of 2010 swept all before them under Jose Mourinho.

Set to meet most pundits’ favourites for ultimate glory, Manchester City, in next month’s Istanbul decider, it could yet be an historic campaign for Simone Inzaghi’s current crop, as they are now within two wins of lifting three pieces of silverware this season.

Already holding the Supercoppa Italiana after an earlier defeat of their city rivals, Inter are one of three Serie A sides soon to contest European finals, and they will meet another, Fiorentina, when they aim to complete the first leg of a Coppa Italia-Champions League double next Wednesday.

Despite all the acclaim following their semi-final victory, the Nerazzurri must now refocus and resume their quest for a top-four league finish this weekend, as an insurance policy in the worst-case scenario that they end up trophyless in three weeks time.

Leading fifth-placed Milan by five points with three rounds remaining, Inter are well placed to hold off their fellow contenders, after Romelu Lukaku’s birthday brace last Saturday helped secure a 4-2 win over Sassuolo.

Surging into life since springtime hit the Italian peninsula, Inzaghi’s men have won their last eight matches by an aggregate score of 22-3, and they may still have sufficient fuel in the tank to capitalise on Napoli’s loss of form.

Furthermore, Inter have come out on top in six of their last nine league meetings with their Campanian counterparts, after posting just one victory from the previous 11.

Beaten in January’s reverse fixture at San Siro, when they resumed action after the winter break with a rare reverse, Napoli may not be enjoying the most positive patch in their match-up with Inter, but they have still lost only one of their last 16 home matches against the Lombardy giants in Serie A.

During that defeat, back in January 2020, Lukaku again scored twice and Lautaro Martinez was also on the scoresheet. The latter will go head-to-head with Victor Osimhen this week, as the Capocannoniere race goes down to the wire.

Osimhen has 23 league goals to his name this term, while ‘El Toro’ has three fewer, so the Nigerian striker will be doubly keen to end his drought against Inter.

He has yet to score against the Nerazzurri in four previous league meetings, and with Napoli possibly experiencing a post-Scudetto hangover, both he and ex-Inter coach Luciano Spalletti would love that to change at Stadio Maradona.

Osimhen’s strike famously edged his team to the title against Udinese earlier this month, sparking joyous scenes throughout Naples and beyond, but the Azzurri have picked up only 12 points since the beginning of April, following a 2-0 defeat at mid-table Monza last time out.

Indeed, six teams have performed better over that time – including Inter, who have accrued the most points during the period – but victory on Sunday would make more history for the Partenopei. It would complete the set for Spalletti’s side: beating all 19 opponents in a single season would be the first time Napoli have done so throughout their long Serie A history.

Napoli Serie A form:

Napoli form (all competitions):

Inter Milan Serie A form:

Inter Milan form (all competitions):

We say: Napoli 1-2 Inter Milan
Despite their heavy workload, Inter’s winning run can continue at Stadio Maradona, as they seem to be at the peak of their powers – no matter which XI Simone Inzahgi sends out clad in Nerazzurri.

They have actually scored the most goals from open play in Serie A this season – Napoli have incidentally recorded the most from set-pieces – and the visitors’ greater goal threat on current form should swing the result in their favour.

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