Roma is fighting for a top-four finish, but it faces a tall task in playing at Napoli.

By 90Min
March 02, 2018

First meets fifth on Saturday night, as Napoli host Roma in a highly anticipated clash at the top of the table in Serie A. The Neapolitans will go into the game with the novel feeling of knowing that whatever Juventus' result against Lazio before them, they will retain their place at the top - thanks to some timely inclement weather last weekend. 

Roma, meanwhile, will be looking to reassert themselves after back to back losses to Shakhtar Donetsk and AC Milan in recent weeks. 

Indeed, with Lazio squaring off against Juventus as mentioned, and Inter taking on Milan in the Derby della Madonnina, the Romans could realistically jump into third if results go their way. 

While that is easier said than done, Roma have a noteworthy record at the Stadio San Paolo - it is the away ground upon which they have won the most games in, aside from 'visiting' Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico.


Classic Encounter

While there have been an abundance of tightly-contested, absorbing affairs between these two in recent times, none have quite eclipsed the magnificent ding-dong battle of October 2007. 

Featuring a fresh faced Marek Hamsik - the only surviving player from this game - in his first season for the club, this game truly had everything.

A long haired Ezequiel Lavezzi opened the scoring in just the second minute, forcing his strike high into the top of the net from close range. It was then up to Francesco Totti to restore parity, converting his penalty with typical composure.

Just before half time the Romans gained the lead, after Totti's speculative long shot was palmed straight to the feet of a hungry Simone Perrotta, who couldn't miss. However, only a minute into the second half, a 20 year old Hamsik nestled a smart curling finish into the bottom corner to once again level the scores.

It didn't last, as only five minutes later the hosts hit back, Daniele De Rossi's long range effort finding its way into the net through the incredulous hands of Gennaro Iezzo. Saving his keeper's blushes was Walter Gargano, who scored the goal of the game with a glorious swirling effort from distance.

Nevertheless, Roma kept going, and were convinced they'd secured three well earned points when David Pizzaro's searching free kick fortuitously leapt off an unknowing light blue leg, to loop over an unsuspecting Iezzo. 

Marcelo Zalayeta had other ideas, rising highest in the penalty box to thump home the ultimate equaliser in the 84th minute, bookending a spellbinding eight-goal thriller. 


Recent Form

Record over the last 10 games across competitions:

Roma: DLDDLWWWLL

Roma's usual mid-season troubles have hit hard this winter, although a three win streak in February helped curtail their woes. Back to back losses to Shakhtar and Milan have undone that hard work, however, and they are thus in need of a 'W' this weekend.

Napoli: WWWWWWLWWW

Save for their serviceable loss to RB Leipzig in the Europa League, the Neopolitans have a perfect record in recent games. Their last loss in earnest was against Atalanta in the Coppa Italia on the 2nd of January, while you have to go back to the 1st of December for their last Serie A loss (Juventus, of course). 


Team News

February has been a cruel month for Napoli in terms of injuries. It started with the young winger Leandrinho sustaining a muscle injury. 

Then their cherished left back Faouzi Ghoulam suffered a setback in his recovery from his kneecap injury, before centre back Vlad Chiriches went down with a back injury.

Roma have also had some bad luck of late, with the precocious midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini tearing his abductor muscle last week. Meanwhile, Rick Karsdorp remains sidelined with the cruciate ligament rupture he has garnered since October.


Potential Napoli Starting Lineup: Reina; Rui, Koulibaly, Albiol, Hysaj; Hamsik, Jorginho, Allan; Insigne, Mertens, Callejon

Potential Roma Starting Lineup: Alisson; Kolarov, Fazio, Manolas, Florenzi; Strootman, De Rossi; Perotti, Nainggolan, Under; Dzeko


Prediction

Despite Napoli's unerringly consistent run of excellence in Serie A, when Roma come to town there is always an air of trepidation, even in their current manifestation of poor form and European priority.

Having said that, this Napoli side possesses a mental strength not seen in the region since 1990, in that last Scudetto winning year. With no remaining distractions on their periphery, the league is everything now, and that should be reflected on the pitch.

Prediction: Napoli 3-1 Roma

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