Preview: Salernitana vs. Napoli
After an extraordinary week at Stadio Arechi, Serie A strugglers Salernitana host regional rivals and league leaders Napoli on Saturday evening.
Days after firing their coach following an 8-2 defeat, the Granata invited him to return, and Davide Nicola will be back in the dugout when their visitors from along the Campania coast come to town.
This weekend, Napoli seek a quick response to a rare failure during their so-far superb 2022-23 campaign, as they tumbled out of the Coppa Italia in midweek against a side yet to win once in Serie A.
Not long after taking a giant stride towards the title last week by slaying closest challengers Juventus 5-1, the Partenopei began their quest for the double on Tuesday, when they hosted Cremonese at Stadio Maradona.
With a quarter-final tie against Roma at stake, Luciano Spalletti’s much-changed XI came from a goal behind to enter the final five minutes 2-1 ahead – thanks to strikes from Juan Jesus and Giovanni Simeone – but they ultimately exited the Coppa on penalties after being held to a draw and then failing to finish off their visitors in extra time.
Nonetheless, Italy’s ‘winter champions’ lead the league by nine points – now just one game shy of Serie A’s midpoint – and their tally of 47 so far means they could become only the fourth side to rack up a half-century at the halfway stage by beating Salernitana.
All of the others eventually went on to secure the Scudetto, and a Napoli side seeking to follow in those footsteps have showed no signs of slowing down in terms of their relentless attacking output.
Spalletti’s team have scored four or more times in five separate domestic games this season – not to mention their prolific Champions League group-stage displays – and only Bayern Munich have done so on more occasions across the top five European leagues.
Only Bayern average more shots per game too, so now set to face opponents with the leakiest defence in Serie A, Capocannoniere leader Victor Osimhen and friends may be rubbing their hands with anticipation before the short trip to Salerno.
Not only did Salernitana lose to Napoli twice last term (1-0 at the Arechi; 4-1 at Stadio Maradona), but they must also host their rampant rivals following a six-goal thrashing last weekend, which hastened the departure of their head coach.
In the aftermath of an 8-2 humiliation dealt out by Atalanta, the beleaguered Davide Nicola – who kept the club up against all the odds last year – was relieved of his duties; two days later, the former Torino boss was reappointed.
Since November, only Sassuolo have picked up fewer points than Salernitana and they have conceded the most goals during that time (18) – Nicola’s short-lived exit also came in light of a terrible start to 2023.
Across three league games this year, they have faced the most shots of any Serie A side – 14 more than any other – and only the form of recently-arrived goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa has kept them from shipping even more goals.
All is not lost, though, as the Granata occupy 16th spot in the table after 18 rounds and are still nine points clear of the drop zone – a far cry from their rock-bottom position of 12 months ago, when survival specialist Nicola first strode into Salerno.
Salernitana Serie A form:
Salernitana form (all competitions):
Napoli Serie A form:
Napoli form (all competitions):
We say: Salernitana 0-2 Napoli
Serie A top scorers Napoli have recorded the most goals during the first half of games this season (21), while Salernitana have conceded the most in the opening 45 minutes (19). Given these sides’ most recent league outings, that suggests the hosts can build a lead they will not relinquish and top up their tally with another three points.