Match Preview: Napoli-Monza

Napoli not to mistake Monza for a bystander.

It’s Matchday 2 in Serie A this weekend, and with the transfer window almost at its final legs, this week will determine what the teams in Italy should focus on during deadline day. One team that has had a noticeable transfer window is Napoli, and they are taking on Monza, the club ran by Silvio Berlusconi, who also invested quite a lot of money for a newly promoted team in Serie A. Luciano Spalletti’s team is looking for a win at home, considering that over 30,000 fans are expecting to see a positive and elegant display of this new Napoli. But the question is: will Monza make their life harder this Sunday? her is a pre-match review of Napoli-Monza, going live on Sunday 21st August at 18:30 Italian Time!

Napoli have definitely shown Serie A at the start of the season that they are no pushover for the top 4 finish. The offensive trio of Victor Osimhen, Hirving “el Chucky” Lozano and new signing Kvicha Kvaratskhelia have produced a combined total of 5 goals and assists in a fiery 5-2 comeback against rivals Hellas Verona.  Whether they are capable of fighting their way for the Scudetto Is a question that should be answered on a later date. 

That’s not to say that playing against Monza will be a walk in the park for the Partenopei, especially when you consider their record against newly promoted teams. In the last 3 seasons, Napoli have recorded a total of 6 losses out of the 18 encounters against newly promoted sides (W12:0D:6L). This can be due to one of two reasons. The first being a weakness in mentality. Napoli have always tended to underestimate weaker sides in the league, which have mostly led to the end result not favouring the Azzurri. An example of this last year was the two recorded losses against Andrea Andreazzoli’s overachieving Empoli. A 0-1 loss at home thanks to a David Ospina mishap and a howler performance from current flop Alex Meret in a 3-2 at the Carlo Castellani Stadium condemned Napoli to a third place finish and losing out to the Scudetto race, which was won by Pioli’s AC Milan. Another potential reason could be the physically and technically demanding tactics that Luciano Spalletti requires in his 4-3-3 (4-2-3-1) formation at Napoli. The ex-Inter manager has managed to get the best out of Napoli’s players thanks to his style of play that harmonised the concrete control of possession from Maurizio Sarri, the varied vertical plays from Carlo Ancelotti and the endurance of Gennaro Gattuso. Needless to say, this was a Napoli tactic that required a high level of physical and technical attributes, and therefore required the right mindset to make this style of play, to which players like Kevin Malcuit struggled to implement last season, hence why they are potentially on their way out of the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona. 

The team from last year has drastically changed. As Koulibaly, Insigne, Mertens, Ospina and now Fabian have left the Partenopei, a new cycle has emerged. Signing of players with experience such as Tanguy Ndombele, Salvatore Sirigu and potentially Keylor Navas, as well as players possessing a lot of talent and potential like Mathias Olivera, Leo Ostigard, Kim MInjae, Giovanni Simeone, Gianluca Raspadori and Kvaratskhelia and youth products climbing through the ranks like Alessio Zerbin and Gianluca Gaetano. The average team age will be rejuvenated by 1 year from its 26.7 years from last year and the quality of depth has evidently improved, with Ndombele rotating with Anguissa or Lobotka and Raspadori fighting for the first team place with Piotr Zielinski, as well as Sirigu adding some needed aid to the erratic Meret. 

With that being said, Napoli’s team will unlikely be a rotated one: Meret will probably remain in goal, with the suspenseful wait of Navas rescinding his contract with PSG further pushing him away from the fuschia colours of the Partenopei; Olivera will take over Mario Rui and new captain Giovanni DI Lorenzo will keep his position as right back (but beware of a rare appearance from the back up Alessandro Zanoli; Kim and Amir Rrahmani will remain as the main centre back for chemistry purposes; Due to Demme’s injury and rumours of a potential exit, Stanislav Lobotka the regista will be looking to maintain his excellent start to the season (following his superb strike against Verona after slaloming his way through the opposition box) and will be paired once again by the roaming playmaker in Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa (whether Ndombele will receive an instant call up by Spalletti will be known in the coming hours, but in the case that he does he will certainly feature for a good quarter of an hour minimum); Zielinski will likely start again for this match and we could see a likely feature from Elmas or more surprisingly Gaetano (As for Raspadori, no official statement from the club is done yet and therefore we might not see him feature for this game but more likely for the next game against Fiorentina); The attacking trio of Osimhen, Lozano and Kvara will most certainly remain the same after their impressive start to the campaign, however a recurring feature of Zerbin and Politano can be expoected, as well as the debut of the new number 18 in El Cholito. 

Napoli will definitely be looking for a quick opening and to put the game straight to bed. But, Monza will by no means be a pushover. The manager is Giovanni Stroppa will most certainly look to cover as much as possible against this ultra offensive eleven with his 5-3-2 formation. The Biancoazzurri have had a very expensive transfer window being the highest spending newly promoted side in Serie A with an expenditure of £21.51m, with the signings of Ex Arsenal defender Pablo Marí, Matteo Pessina and Stefano Sensi improving the quality of the team. The one to watch for Monza however, will be ex Napoli striker Andrea Petagna. Having played with most of these players for two years, his presence can definitely impact the scoreline when coming up against the likes of Rrahmani and Kim. 

But it’s not just the signings that talk! The Briazoli have to be credited in putting a valiant effort against Juric’s Torino, losing 2-1, with Portuguese winger in Dany Mota scoring their only goal and it does look like it can only go up from there, especially considering their bravery when attacking. Though most of their shots I that game were off target (26.7% shot accuracy) They do enjoy scaring the opposition, particularly from outside of the opposition box (10/15 shots were outside of the box). Despite having most possession of the ball, Monza were much deadlier in the counterattacks and 2 of their 4 shots on target came from a counterattack situation, something that Napoli is rather vulnerable of. Furthermore, Monza have been dangerous in attacking even with less men charging in the oppositions half, with just three of their players being inside the opposition box for Mota’s goal. Stroppa perhaps is more cautious when his defends (as Torino’s goals were primarily caused by Monza’s rookie errors during the build up phase of the team. Therefore The Monza coach will definitely try to put more emphasis on the defensive side of the team for the game against Napoli, as understands that his team can provide the chances to surprise his opponent, even if they will only have maximum of three players charging for goal.

Stroppa will probably keep Di Gregorio in goal after his good performance against Torino, but new signing Alessio Cragno will look to get into the starting XI due to his experience inn Serie A; The back three will likely remain the same with the Brazilian trio in Marlon, Carlos Augusto and Marí attempting to silence Napoli’s offensive trio, although a possible appearance of the charismatic Andrea Ranocchia is one to consider; the blistering pace of D’Alessandro and Briindelli will be the main focus of the team as they will be the ones dictating and progressing Monza’s build up play, with the midfield tro of Sensi, Valoti and Barberis not only adding more cover to Monza’s central part, but also play intricate passes to cut Napoli’s defence wide open; In attack the deep-lying forward Gianlucsa Caprari will partner up with the target man Petagna, but beware of a possible presence of Gytkjær. The Danish forward was particularly key for Monza in the play off games and therefore can surprise football fans in such a big game.

I believe this will be a match full of scares and surprises. Monza won’t let Napoli have the easy way out, especially with their first game at home this season. Napoli’s quality could be too much for Berlusconi’s club. However, considering how well they played against a Serie A regular in Torino, one should not let this team go unnoticed. Napoli must stay grounded if they want to re-enact the positive start to the campaign they had last season.

Author: Francesco Polverino