Napoli have been one of the stories of the season so far. The club missed out on qualification to the Champions League last term after their defeat at the hands of Lazio. Manager Rafael Benitez went on to join Real Madrid, and the Neapolitans appointed former Empoli boss Maurizio Sarri at the helm. Sarri, for all the great work he did with Empoli, was still an unknown quantity, and Napoli did take a gamble in giving him the reins of the side.
The Partenpoi started their season with an opening day loss to Sassuolo; however, they have moved from strength to strength since and are unbeaten in their 12 league games, following that late August defeat. They have won eight times, including successive wins over title contenders Juventus, AC Milan and Fiorentina, and have drawn the other four to sit second in the league standings. They are just two points adrift of league leaders Inter Milan, who have a tally of 30 points from 13 matches.
Napoli will be up against Inter Milan next, and their title credentials will be further tested at the Stadio San Paolo on Monday night.
Inter Milan started their league campaign with a series of five successive, albeit unconvincing, wins. Their form then dipped, and they drew three and lost one of their next four games. However, they have recovered since and are on a four-game winning run in the league as they travel to Naples for their next game.
Roberto Mancini’s side, although the top of the league standings haven’t been the most convincing side in the Italian top flight this term. They have registered narrow 1-0 wins over AS Roma and AC Milan and were held to a scoreless 0-0 draw in the Italian derby against reigning Serie A champions and 2015 Champions League finalists Juventus at the San Siro in October. Their only defeat has come against Fiorentina, who inflicted a crushing 4-1 thrashing of Mancini’s men on Inter’s home turf.
The upcoming clash between Napoli and Inter Milan is promising to be an enticing encounter between two teams on top of the standings. The way Sarri’s men have played means that they will be favourites on Monday night.
For the Neapolitans, Argentina international Gonzalo Higuain has been in splendid form, having netted ten goals from his 13 league games thus far. Sarri has opted for a 4-3-3 formation in most of the games and has put hugely influential Lorenzo Insigne on the left wing, former Real Madrid winger, Jose Maria Callejon on the right wing while Higuain has played through the middle. Jorginho, Allan and Marek Hamsik have been pulling the strings from the midfield. The attacking football espoused by Sarri has earned him many admirers.
Mancini has opted for 4-2-3-1 and its variations in Inter’s games, but his experiments with other strategies have suggested that the former Manchester City is still trying to figure what is best for his side.
Napoli will start as favourites and a win for them will firmly underline their credentials for the league title.