This weekend will witness a gigantic clash in Serie A as defending champions Inter Milan head to Naples to take on the Azzurri. Napoli have inched closer in the title race last weekend as they thrashed Venezia, 2-0, and are now just a point behind the defending champions. With Serie A likely to see a four-way competition for the title, every point matters for both sides. The last time these two Italian giants met in November, fans witnessed a goal-fest that saw Inter defeat their rivals by a 3-2 margin. With the stakes even higher going into Saturday, we are likely to see intense action on the field from both sides.
Here’s our preview of the Serie A fixture between defending champions Inter Milan and Napoli:
Napoli continued their perfect start to the new year in Serie A last weekend as they thrashed Venezia 2-0 to close the gap on the league leaders. The Partenopei now sit in second place with 52 points from 24 fixtures, courtesy of four straight wins in their last four outings in the Serie A, all in 2022. With that victory, Luciano Spalletti’s side can finally move past the horrific 5-2 defeat they faced at the hands of Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia.
While the exit from Coppa Italia is likely to hurt their morale, it will allow the club to focus their efforts on Serie A and the UEFA Champions League. With teams across Europe struggling to manage the workload of players, the Azzurri should use this opportunity to lift the Serie A title for the first time since 1990. However, with Milan close on their heels and Inter having a game to spare, Luciano Spalletti has his work cut out for him for the rest of the season.
The return of Kalidou Koulibaly from AFCON will boost Napoli’s defences by a significant margin. The Senegal captain led his team to their first-ever Africa Cup of Nations title last weekend, and along with Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, the duo will be crucial in containing Inter on Saturday. The return of Victor Osmihen has also proved to be a big boost – the star striker put the Partenopei ahead last weekend in a tightly fought match once again.
Inter Milan lost the Derby Della Madonnina last weekend to their intra-city rivals AC Milan 1-2, with Olivier Giroud scoring twice to take the game away from the defending champions. Losing to their archrivals is likely to impact their morale, but the Nerazzurri need to regroup quickly as they have back-to-back fixtures against Italian giants. Simone Inzaghi’s side looked comfortable at the top of the table for a while, but a stunning run from both Napoli and AC Milan, along with missed opportunities like the 0-0 draw against Atalanta, have now made their position less secure.
The good news for Simone Inzaghi is that they still have a game in hand. If Inter manage to bag three points on Saturday, they have two easy fixtures lined up in the coming weeks to further pull ahead in the three-way Scudetto race. But before that, they will have to deal with an in-form Napoli in Naples, and with Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League.
Simone Inzaghi will remain suspended from the fixture following the tempestuous aftermath of the Milan derby, and it remains to be seen how good the Nerazzurri can hold themselves without their manager on the field. The team’s starting XI is unlikely to change from the one they used in the 2-0 victory over AS Roma on Tuesday, with Internazionale now reaching the semifinals of the Coppa Italia tournament.
HEAD TO HEAD
Napoli and Inter clashed on 37 occasions so far, with the Azzurri holding a slight advantage with 14 wins. The Nerazzurri have won 13 fixtures, while 10 fixtures ended in a draw. The intensity of the competition between both sides on the field can be gauged from the fact that 2.30 goals have been scored on average every time the two sides meet, with Inter holding the upper hand.
But Napoli’s track record in recent times against the defending champions has been abysmal, with Inter remaining undefeated in the last five encounters against the Naples-based side. Inter also won the reverse fixture 3-2 back at home and will be confident of taking home three points on their visit to the Stadio San Paolo.
WHAT TO EXPECT
With Manchester City racing away in the Premier League race and Real Madrid dominating La Liga, the three-way race for the Scudetto has now caught the attention of European fans. Just one point separates the three teams, and every point will count in the race. Juventus are not far behind and have discovered fresh momentum in recent weeks. While Inter Milan have a game to spare, Simone Inzaghi’s men will be looking to get back the lead that they lost last weekend with a victory. On the other hand, a victory is critical to Napoli’s hopes of laying their hands on the title for the first time since 1990.
Expect goals from both sides, and the victor to be decided in the last quarter of the fixture by a thin margin.
Napoli Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): David Ospina, Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Amir Rrahmani, Kalidou Koulibaly, Marco Rui, Fabian Ruiz, Andre-Frank Anguissa, Piotr Zielinski , Matteo Politano, Lorenzo Insigne, Victor Osimhen.
Inter Milan Predicted XI (3-5-2): Samir Handanovic, Danilo D’Ambrosio, Milan Skriniar, Alessandro Bastoni, Matteo Darmian, Nicolo Barella, Marcelo Brozovic, Arturo Vidal, Ivan Perisic, Edin Dzeko, Alexis Sanchez.
When: Saturday, 12 February 2022, 10:30 PM IST
Where: Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, Naples.
Where to Watch: All matches of Serie A are streamed live on the Voot app. Subscribers of JioTV can also catch all the action live through the app.
VISIT OUR BLOG TO GET YOUR FIX FOR ALL OF THE MOST CURRENT FOOTBALL NEWS STORIES & FEATURES