The international break has at last drawn to a close and Inter’s return to action is looming on the horizon. But unluckily for the Nerazzurri, it failed to escape World Cup Qualifiers unscathed. Stefan de Vrij, Alexis Sanchez (who would have thought..), Edin Dzeko, and Alessandro Bastoni are all somewhere in between half-injured and unavailable for Sunday’s marquee clash. Simone Inzaghi isn’t getting any favors with the schedule either; Inter has crucial home tilts against Napoli and Shakhtar Donestk in the coming week before a weekend visit to Venezia. Up first for the good guys is Luciano Spalletti’s Napoli, currently tied with Milan for first on 32 points from 12 games.
Spalletti was appointed over the summer to replace Gennarro Gattuso after the team from Naples missed out on Champions League football on the final matchday. Spalletti’s impact has been immediate as the Partenopei have dropped points just twice all season thanks to draws with Roma and Verona, but are yet to lose. Spalletti offers a much more tactical approach than Gattuso’s more emotional, man-manager approach and that appears to be just what a very talented Napoli side needed to find its best form.
It has the fifth-best attack in the league with 24 goals from 12 games and, even more impressively, the best backline. Anchored by the superb Kalidou Koulibaly and locked down on the flanks by Mario Rui and Giovanni Di Lorenzo, the ball has found its way into David Ospina’s net just four times so far, Inter’s league-best attack will be hard-pressed to continue its run of scoring in every single league match. Spalletti’s magic has also been strongly felt in the center of the park. Though Piotr Zielinski hasn’t hit his 20/21 form,
Fabian Ruiz and André-Frank Zambo Anguissa form one of the best midfield partnerships in the league. The Spaniard has played a more advanced role so far with 3 goals and 2 assists, while Zambo Anguissa offers a physical edge to the game. Locking down those two (who both rank highly in Napoli’s possession categories) will be key if Inter is to have any control of the center of the pitch.
The name that surely has Inter most concerned is of course Victor Osimhen. The Nigerian has five goals so far but his skills on and off the ball are the focal point of Napoli’s attack and give the supporting cast more room to work in. Lorenzo Insigne (4g, 2a), Hirving Lozano (who rather amusingly recently proclaimed his desire to move to a bigger club despite not being a regular starter for Napoli), and Matteo Politano can all cause problems if given the room to work in.
The injury to Stefan de Vrij makes Inter’s job that much more complicated and error-free defending is going to be a must if the scoreline is to be somewhat manageable. We’ll see if Inzaghi sticks to the counter-attack vulnerable tactics we’ve seen a fair amount of; Ranocchia in a foot race with Osimhen won’t be a pretty sight from the Nerazzurri perspective.
Inter has taken on Napoli 161 times in all competitions, boasting a 70W-42T-49L record. The Nerazzurri went unbeaten last season, winning the home leg before a draw at the newly named Stadio Diego Armando Maradona. The last time Napoli won in the league was in May of 2019, though it did manage to knock Inter out of the 19/20 Coppa Italia.
- 1-0 H, 16/12/20
- 1-1 A, 18/4/21
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: Inter 2-2 Napoli
With the exception of an injury-riddled Juventus, Napoli is yet to face one of the peninsula’s top teams. This is a perfect chance for Spalletti to make a statement that Napoli is ready to challenge for the title, but Inter will do enough to hold the Partenopei to a draw thanks to goals from Ivan Perisic and Joaquin Correa.