This festive period brings us some enticing football fixtures this December and quite potentially none less so than Boxing Day’s Serie A clash between Inter and Napoli.
Whilst the teams are only separated by one place in the table – with Napoli second in the league, ahead of Inter in third – things aren’t quite as tight as they could be. Indeed, Carlo Ancelotti’s men sit eight points ahead of I Nerazzurri.
As they try to desperately make up at that deficit and increase the gap between them and fourth placed Lazio, Luciano Spalletti’s team will look to make the most of their home advantage.
The biggest team news comes from Inter, with the club confirming that Radja Nainggolan has been temporarily suspended from football activity for disciplinary reasons.
Otherwise things are looking pretty healthy. Kwadwo Asamoah will return from suspension, so only left-back Dalbert looks set to be unavailable through injury.
Napoli will have to wait and see if Allan has fully recovered from his back problem. But their only certain absentee looks to be Vlad Chiriches who is out for the long term having suffered a cruciate ligament rupture back in September.
|Handanovic; Vrsaljko, Skriniar, De Vrij, Asamoah; Vecino, Brozovic, Mario; Politano, Icardi, Perisic
|Meret; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Callejon, Zielinski, Hamsik, Fabian; Mertens, Insigne
Head to Head Record
Napoli will look at this game with high hopes when they consider the recent history between the two. Their opponents from Milan have won just once in the last 11 top-flight meetings – recording five draws and five losses in the process.
What’s more, Inter haven’t even managed to score against Napoli since April 2016, when Marcelo Brozovic netted in a 2-0 victory – that’s 406 minutes of game time without a goal.
But in terms of the greater picture, things looks a little more positive for Inter. In the 72 previous top-flight encounters between the two, played in Milan, Inter have scored 136 goals to Napoli’s 68. So while things haven’t looked so good recently, at least it wasn’t always that bad.
Last time out in the league, Inter were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw against Chievo Verona, conceding in the 91st minute. Things did go a little better the week before when they held off Udinese at home in a tight but important 1-0 win.
But that result came following the disappointment in Europe where a draw against PSV saw the Italian club fall out of the Champions League at the first hurdle – dropping into the Europa League.
Napoli suffered their own Champions League disappointment recently as well. After failing to beat Liverpool in the last group stage game, they too will drop into the Europa League when the competition resumes next year.
In the league, however, things have been going much better. Carlo Ancelotti’s men have won their last four Serie A fixtures in a row and have not lost since their defeat away to Juventus back in September.
Here’s how the two sides have performed in their last five fixtures:
|Chievo 1-1 Inter (22/12)
|Napoli 1-0 SPAL (22/12)
|Inter 1-0 Udinese (15/12)
|Cagliari 0-1 Napoli (16/12)
|Inter 1-1 PSV (12/12)
|Liverpool 1-0 Napoli (12/12)
|Juventus 1-0 Inter (7/12)
|Napoli 4-0 Frosinone (8/12)
|AS Roma 2-2 Inter (2/12)
|Atalanta 1-2 Napoli (3/12)
Both the recent form and the recent history between the two suggests that this is going to be one difficult afternoon for Inter. Despite having the home advantage, I Nerazzurri will have to be at their best if they want to win this game – and really, if they want to keep pace at the top, nothing less than a win will do.
Napoli’s needs are just as much as Inter’s, as Gli Azzurri desperately battle to keep within touching distance of league leader’s Juventus. If the gap between first and second place widens any more, this title race could be over before the new year.
Napoli have recent history on their side and come into the game with stronger form. For those reasons, they should take all three points from this one.
Prediction: Inter 0-2 Napoli