The big game in Italy takes place on Monday evening at the Stadio San Paolo in Naples, as the 2015-16 entertainers Napoli, host the cold but clinical Inter in a top of the table clash.
Sarri Becomes the King of Campania
It’s the dream scenario for Napoli supporters, a Neapolitan born coach delivering the club’s third Scudetto, their first for 25 years and it’s possible, really possible this season with the Southern giants playing some of the most attractive football in Europe. Unbeaten since the opening day of the season, Maurizio Sarri’s side have won 11 of their last 12 matches in all competitions with Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain currently sitting top of the Serie A goalscoring charts, having rifled in 10 already this season (He’s currently quoted at *4.33 on the best sports betting sites to open the scoring on Monday). It’s not just scoring goals that has fired Sarri’s team to within two points of current league leaders and Monday’s opponents either; Goalkeeper Pepe Reina needs to keep his goal intact for another 33 minutes to beat the seasonal record in Europe, currently held by David De Gea of Manchester United. The last side to breach the Napoli rear-guard in the league were Fiorentina, way back on October 18.
Mancini points to substance over style
The visitors to the San Paolo on Monday night are the polar opposite to their hosts as Inter coach Roberto Mancini, looks to put a stop to Napoli’s free-scoring style in front of their home fans. Last weekend’s 4-0 home win over newly promoted Frosinone, was only the second time this season that the Nerazzurri had scored more than one goal in a game. The recently turned 51-year-old tactician, only needs to point to the current Serie A table however, with his side top of the tree to silence any doubters. Having disposed of fellow title contenders Roma at the San Siro at the end of October, Mancini knows that Monday’s trip to Campania will be the biggest test so far to his team’s title credentials. The club’s owner, Indonesian business tycoon Erick Thohir, has given his coach his full backing amid increasingly negative press headlines over his team’s style of play. Many Inter fans however, will point to the last time they had a dogged and determined man at the helm, Jose Mourinho when they went on to claim domestic and European success in the same season. If it is to be a beauty and the beast scenario, don’t be surprised if this fairy tale has an unhappy ending.
So what do the betting exchanges feel about another 1-0 win for Mancini’s team? They currently quote them at *15.00.
The home side have lost Belgian playmaker Dries Mertens and Italian striker Manolo Gabbiadini to injury but apart from that, Sarri has a fully fit squad to call upon. The unstoppable Higuaín is likely to be partnered in attack by local boy Lorenzo Insigne and Spaniard Jose Callejon in the 4-3-3 system that has revitalised the club.
The big concern for Mancini is the fitness of French midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia, who is struggling to make the trip south. Full-back Davide Santon will definitely miss the game, having been diagnosed with a small haematoma prior to last weekend’s win over Frosinone. Mancini could also prefer Adem Ljajic over Mauro Icardi, which would mean Ivan Perisic joining Stevan Jovetic up front. All eyes will also be on Brazilian enforcer Felipe Melo who stated in the press this week that he would “eat up” Higuain on Monday night.
PROBABLE STARTING XI’S
Napoli (4-3-3) Reina; Ghoulam, Albiol, Koulibaly, Hysaj; Hamsik, Jorginho, Allan; Insigne, Higuain, Callejon
Inter (4-3-1-2) Handanovic; Telles, Murillo, Miranda, D’Ambrosio; Felipe Melo, Medel, Guarin; Ljajic; Jovetic, Perisic
HEAD TO HEAD
You have to go back to October 1997 to find the last time Inter won at the San Paolo. In last season’s corresponding fixture, a late penalty from Icardi gave the Nerazzurri a share of the points after the hosts had raced into a two-goal lead. Sarri’s team are unsurprisingly unbeaten at home this season having managed to score in every game so far. Inter can boast an unbeaten away record up to now, having not conceded a goal on the road since late October in Palermo.
Napoli 1.66 Draw 3.75 Inter 5.50
*odds courtesy of Bet365
Steve Mitchell (@barafundler)