Title contenders Napoli travel to Tuscany to face bottom Empoli in Sunday’s competitive Serie A game. Anything less than a win would deal a knockout blow to Napoli’s hopes of a first Scudetto since Diego Maradona’s glory days.
That Partenopei were minutes from sinking Roma in their delicious mid-week league game before Stephan El Shaarawy equalized at the last minute. A heartbreaking 1-1 draw at the hands of the Giallorossi last time out means Napoli go into this clash five points behind pacesetters Inter.
Luciano Spalletti meets an out of line Empoli side that are not really in danger of relegation. Wandering in the bottom half of Serie A, Gli Azzurri do not threaten the image of the upper half. Still, Aurelio Andreazzoli’s men will be keen to get their faltering league campaign back on track.
Empoli suffered a stunning 4-1 away defeat to Udinese, who also struggled in the bottom half, last time out and carried their Serie A winless run to a frustrating 16 games (D8, L8). In fact, Andreazzoli’s side are experiencing the longest run in the league without a win in Europe’s top five leagues.
As the only side not to win a single Serie A game since mid-December, Empoli will feel obliged to give home fans something to praise for. Before a goalless draw against Spezia in their last Serie A game at Carlo Castellani, Gli Azzurri had scored in nine league home games in a row.
That should be enough to lift the mood in the home camp. More importantly, Empoli has the top flight H2H home record firmly on their side here. They have lost just one of their eight Serie A encounters against Napoli in Tuscany (W3 D4), while also winning the second leg in Napoli 1-0.
Napoli have no margin for error if they should stay in the Scudetto frame after Inter’s comfortable 3-1 home win over Roma on Saturday. Luciano Spalletti’s side can count on an excellent away record in Serie A ahead of this trip, having recorded a league-best 37 points away from home this season (W11 W4 W1).
In fact, Napoli are enjoying their best away season yet in Italy’s elite competition as they have won their last three Serie A games ‘to one’ on enemy turf. Spalletti has turned his side into a watertight defensive unit this season Partenopei conceded the division’s common low 12 goals away from home.
All competitions included, Napoli are unbeaten in all eight away games in 2022 (W5 D3) despite failing to shut out six times. Notably, they have conceded more than 2 goals in their last four Serie A games at Empoli, underscoring the potential for a leaky weekend.
Empoli will be without Swiss midfielder Nicolas Haas and central defenders Riccardo Marchizza and Lorenzo Tonelli, while Federico Di Francesco remains in question.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Juan Jesus and Stanislav Lobotka are all injured at Napoli. Kalidou Koulibaly is serving a suspension for collecting yellow cards while David Ospina is still a question mark over his head.
Empoli Potential Starting XI (4-3-1-2): Guglielmo Vicario; Petar Stojanovic, Ardian Ismajli, Simone Romagnoli, Liberato Cacace; Marco Benassi, Kristjan Asllani, Filippo Bandinelli; Liam Henderson; Andrea LaMantia, Andrea Pinamonti.
Napoli Potential Starting XI (4-3-3): Alex Meret; Alessandro Zanoli, Amir Rrahmani, Axel Tuanzebe, Faouzi Ghoulam; Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Fabian Ruiz, Piotr Zielinski; Dries Mertens, Victor Osimhen, and Lorenzo Insigne.