While their Scudetto challenge is effectively over, Napoli will seek to secure their grip on third place when they visit mid-table Torino on Saturday.
Following a thrashing of Sassuolo last week, the Partenopei are still one point ahead of old foes Juventus in the Serie A standings, while their hosts have remained unbeaten in six games to inch inside the top half.
With the identity of Serie A’s top four already decided, all that remains is the order in which the quartet of Calcio heavyweights will finish later this month – and the best position realistically available to Napoli is third, due to some recent stumbles.
After a late Empoli comeback all but ended hopes of a first title for three decades, Luciano Spalletti’s side had good reason to take on Sassuolo last week with motivation at a low ebb.
However, they instead tore into the Emilians at a sparsely populated Stadio Maradona; going four goals up before the half-hour mark, Napoli ran out 6-1 winners at the final whistle – with five different goalscorers getting in on the act.
That victory keeps the Azzurri on track for a top-three place for the first time in three years; ending a winless run of three league games, in which they had only taken one point.
Undoubtedly, a major factor behind their decline has been several defensive lapses – particularly with regular right-back Giovanni Di Lorenzo spending time on the sidelines of late – and Napoli have now conceded in each of their last 11 league games.
Should they allow Torino to score on Saturday, Spalletti’s men would post the club’s longest run without a clean sheet in Serie A since the turn of the century; standing in stark contrast to the resilient unit that barely leaked a goal during the autumn.
Perhaps given their opponents’ recent inconsistency, Torino might fancy their chances of taking maximum points this weekend, but recent precedent suggests they start as serious underdogs despite home advantage.
Il Toro’s last league win against Napoli came back in March 2015, and they have lost both of the clubs’ last two Serie A encounters without scoring a single goal.
Furthermore, Torino have gained only one point from their last six top-flight meetings with their Campanian counterparts in Turin, so they will instead turn to some improving form over the past month for inspiration.
Following a 3-1 win at Empoli last week, Ivan Juric’s side are unbeaten in their last six Serie A matches – both winning and drawing three times – and only leaders Milan are currently enjoying a longer run without defeat.
They now aim to post successive league victories for the first time since January, while keeping their noses in front of Sassuolo in the pursuit of a top-half finish.
Not renowned for their expansive approach, the Granata have rattled in nine goals in their last three outings – which also included a 4-4 thriller against Atalanta – and with star striker Andrea Belotti finally shrugging off fitness issues to net a hat-trick last time out, they appear to be finishing their campaign in some style.
Torino Serie A form:
Napoli Serie A form:
We say: Torino 1-2 Napoli
With the pressure off, Napoli appeared to revert to type last week, with players previously faltering under the huge weight of expectation seemingly at ease – particularly in the final third.
Torino are generally defensively sound, though, so expect a tightly-contested encounter in Turin, which the visitors should edge due to their greater individual quality in the creative department.