Preview: Roma vs. Napoli

Preview: Roma vs. Napoli

Featuring two southern giants of Serie A, Sunday night’s Derby del Sole between leaders Napoli and a resurgent Roma promises an enthralling encounter at Stadio Olimpico.

The sides are separated by four points in the standings, with both aiming to boost their Scudetto credentials at the other’s expense. While the visitors remain unbeaten, the Giallorossi have won their last three league matches following Monday’s success at Sampdoria.

Setting a relentless pace at the top of both Serie A and Champions League Group A, Napoli have won each of their last 10 games in all competitions, and only once in their history have they enjoyed a longer winning run.

Back in their mid-80s heyday, the Campanian club managed to string together 11 on the bounce, and victory in Rome this week would match the feats of 1986.

Their most recent three points did not come easy, though, as a 69th-minute Victor Osimhen goal was required to edge out Bologna in a 3-2 home win last Sunday – a result which keeps the Partenopei top of the table; leading closest rivals Atalanta by two points.

Among their 25 league goals this term, and a scarcely believable 17 from four fixtures in Europe, Napoli have recorded 15 different scorers. Level with perennial Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, that represents the most by any team throughout the top five European Leagues.

The architect of such attacking prowess, Luciano Spalletti’s quiet revolution has only gathered pace since his side crashed out of the title race late last term, and reigning champions Milan are the only side to have posted more points in Serie A this calendar year.

Now being talked of as Scudetto favourites and contenders to prevail in the Champions League, the Azzurri are set to face Liverpool and Atalanta in the coming weeks, after tackling Roma on Sunday, so can expect to be fully tested before the World Cup intervenes.

Having slipped off the pace of their southern rivals in recent times, Roma have won only one of their last eight league meetings with Napoli – including a pair of draws last season – and their last victory came back in November 2019.

This year, they trail in the Neapolitans’ wake once again, but Jose Mourinho’s second season at the club seems to promise greater things for the Europa Conference League winners.

After captain Lorenzo Pellegrini coolly converted an early penalty at Stadio Luigi Ferraris on Monday, ultimately securing the Giallorossi’s seventh league win from 10 games to date, they sat fourth in the standings – a point above bitter foes Lazio and just one below Milan.

Roma have now won their last three Serie A matches and would win four in a row for the first time under Mourinho if they can become the first team to topple the leaders this season.

However, a long-standing weakness against other top-six candidates means they are winless in their last 12 home matches against sides in the first four places at the start of that matchday; losing each of the most recent three.

Their last such victory was over three years ago, under Claudio Ranieri, but a shift in mentality may be afoot: Roma overcame Inter at San Siro earlier this month, and as champions in the continent’s newest club competition, they have had to see games out under intense pressure.

Next week, they return to Europa League action with plenty of work left to secure their spot in the knockout stages. Between now and then, though, lies a fixture to truly test the mettle of Mourinho’s men.

Roma Serie A form:
Roma form (all competitions):
Napoli Serie A form:
Napoli form (all competitions):

We say: Roma 1-2 Napoli
The last two matches in this southern derby have finished level, and that streak would reach three for the first time in 27 years if two contrasting sides cannot be separated at the Olimpico. However, Napoli’s slicker passing and more clinical touch in the box could prove the factors which tip the balance in their favour.

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