SSC Napoli continue the daunting task of pursuing trailblazing Juventus after losing further ground in last weekend's 1-1 draw with Roma.
Round 10 of Serie A fixtures incidentally saw Inter leapfrog Gli Azzurri to claim second spot, albeit on goal difference, with both sides six points behind the I Bianconeri.
Friday night will mark the 11th meeting between these two sides, with the most recent fixture ending in an emphatic 3-2 win for Napoli. Furthermore, the Gli Azzurri have won three of the last four, with Empoli's most recent victory back in 2015.
Check out 90min's preview of the game below.
How to Watch
|When Is Kick Off?||Friday 2 November|
|What Time Is Kick Off?||19.30 (BST)|
|Where Is it Played?||Stadio San Paolo|
|TV Channel/Live Stream||Eleven Sports|
This match belonged to Riccardo Saponara, as his stellar performance on 30th April 2015 inspired Empoli to an emphatic 4-2 victory over Napoli at the Stadio Carlo Castellani.
Recently promoted as Serie B runners-up, Empoli defied their lowly league position to stun Napoli & produce one of the best attacking displays of the season.
Massimo Maccarone (8), Miguel Britos (43 og) and Riccardo Saponara (45+1) sent Maurizio Sarri's rampant Azzurri into half-time with a convincing 3-0 lead.
Napoli clawed one goal back on the 64th, as Marek Hamsik's close-range shot deflected off Vincent Laurini & into his own net.
A third own goal of the evening boosted Empoli, as Raul Albiol got in on the act, slicing the ball into his own net from a Mirko Valdifiori corner. Hamsik then rounded off the goal-scoring in fine form, as his swerving screamer nestled into the near post in stoppage time.
Dries Mertens’ late equaliser against Roma was his 95th goal for the club, and Carlo Ancelotti will probably opt to start the Belgian on Friday.
The man who will miss out should that happen will be big Polish front-man Arkadiusz Milik, who has now failed to score in 233 minutes. The only other change could come in the midfield with Polish international Piotr Zielinski replacing young Spaniard Fabian Ruiz
The pressure is mounting on coach Aurelio Andreazzoli, despite guiding the club straight back into the top-flight last season as champions of Serie B. Empoli have just the one victory to their name this season and have only scored nine goals this term - the joint second worst in the division.
Andreazzoli also has a pretty full infirmary with defender Lorenzo Polvani’s season already over and Levan Mchedlidze, Alejandro Rodriguez, Freddie Veseli and Lorenzo Lollo not expected to return until after the November international break.
Predicted Line Ups
|Napoli||Ospina; Rui, Koulibaly, Albiol, Hysaj; Ruiz, Hamsik, Allan, Callejon; Mertens, Insigne|
|Empoli||Provedel; Antonelli, Maietta, Silvestre, Lorenzo; Traore, Bennacer, Acquah; Zajc, Krunic; Caputo|
Head to Head Record
These two sides have only faced each other on 10 separate occasions in Serie A, with Napoli narrowly edging the record. Napoli have won four, with Empoli winning on three occasions and the sides sharing the spoils three times.
Napoli are unbeaten in the last four against Empoli, with the last defeat coming with Maurizio Sarri in charge of the Azzurri, leading them to an emphatic 4-2 win in 2015, which saw three own goals scored in the match.
Although this wasn't the biggest margin Empoli have won by, as in 1998 they dispatched Napoli 5-0. More recently, Napoli showcased their firepower, thrashing the Azzurri 5-1 in 2016.
Despite losing ground in Serie A after salvaging a 1-1 draw with Roma last weekend, Gli Azzurri have lost just one of their previous six, including a 1-0 victory over Liverpool and 2-2 score-draw with PSG in the UEFA Champions League.
Empoli, on the other hand, are experiencing somewhat of a contrasting period. Failing to win in any of their last six, the Azzurri have collected just two points since September's international break, once again falling short to a Cristiano Ronaldo double in Saturday's 2-1 home defeat to Juventus.
Here's how each team has performed in their last five fixtures:
|Napoli 1-1 Roma (28/10)||Empoli 1-2 Juventus (27/10)|
|PSG 2-2 Napoli (24/10)||Frosinone 3-3 Empoli (21/10)|
|Udinese 0-3 Napoli (20/10)||Empoli 0-2 Roma (06/10)|
|Napoli 2-0 Sassuolo (07/10)||Parma 1-0 Empoli (30/09)|
|Napoli 1-0 Liverpool (03/10)||Empoli 1-1 AC Milan (27/09)|
Napoli head into Friday's fixture in good form. After confidence boosting results in the Champions League, they will be slightly disappointed with last weekend's result but can take pleasure in the fact that they are unbeaten in five.
Ancelotti’s men have a huge Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain next week, but he has told his players to concentrate on the next game as they battle for second-spot with Inter.
Empoli, on the other hand, look to be in for another tricky fixture, with their form in-desperate need of an upturn in fortune as they look to build on their sole win this season.
It well may be a scrappy game, but expect Napoli to win this one.