It's time for another edition of the Derby del Sole. Roma won the first leg in the league this year, but Napoli got the better of the giallorossi in the Coppa Italia, getting through Roma to get to the final. Now they do head to head one last time this season, and with a six-point gap between the two clubs in the battle for second place in Serie A, this might be the most important tilt yet.
Roma have the advantage over Napoli on the Serie A table, and on neutral ground might just be able to get the better of our beloved partenopei. But Roma's form have slipped of late, as it has been a number of weeks since they have looked truly impressive, and they are missing several important players through injury and suspension. Federico Balzaretti and the talismanic Francesco Totti both are still hurting despite Roman fans hoping that they may return this week, and Daniele De Rossi's three-match suspension for punching Mauro Icardi during Roma's last match was upheld on appeal.
While they won't have a true defensive midfielder to replace De Rossi, the combination of Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan offers them enough defensive steel in midfield to compensate, especially with the playmaking talents of Miralem Pjanic in front of them. That's the beauty of Rudi Garcia's system that he's used so far with Roma: his midfield has been very interchangeable, with the tactics tweaked for maximum effectiveness depending on the players available. The same has been true on the forward line, where Mattia Destro's recent scoring tear combined with the good form of Gervinho and Adem Ljajic has seen Roma survive the absence of their captain and legend Totti.
Licking Our Wounds
After two straight brutally disappointing draws in the league and a pair of underwhelming performances against Swansea in the Europa League, Napoli are potentially in a bit of a tough position for this match. With the table standing where it is, this is a must-win match for Napoli if they want to stay in the race for second place. Fortunately, they've done very well in "big" situations this season, especially at home.
In the plus side, Napoli have as full-strength roster as is currently possible at their disposal. Aside from the Knee Injury Trio of Rafael, Zuniga, and Mesto, everyone is healthy and available. Gonzalo Higuain and Raul Albiol even have the benefit of an extra week's rest after serving yellow card suspensions last week against Livorno. Rafa Benitez won't have the ability to exploit Roman fatigue as he did last time around, but with his squad at full strength and Roma's depleted, his tactics plus the energy of the San Paolo could be enough to see Roma off.
A View From The Other Side
A View From The Other Side
Roma: De Sanctis; Maicon, Benatia, Castan, Torosidis; Strootman, Nainggolan, Pjanic; Gervinho, Destro, Ljajic
Napoli: Reina; Maggio, Fernandez, Albiol, Ghoulam; Inler, Jorginho; Callejon, Hamsik, Insigne; Higuain
At a glance
Napoli: 3rd; 15W 7D 4L; League Form: DDWWL
Roma: 2nd;17W 7D 1L; League Form: DWWDW
Napoli's first loss of the season was at the hands of Roma way back in October, as the capitol club took the partenopei down 2-0 on the strength of a brace from Miralem Pjanic. Pjanic hit Napoli on a direct free kick and a penalty after a Paolo Cannavaro error in an otherwise even match, both of which are areas that the club has (mostly) improved on since then. Hopefully we won't see the same problems this time around.
The match will start Sunday at 8:45 PM CET/3:45 PM EST. Television coverage will be on Sky Supercalcio HD in Italy, BT Sport 1 in the UK, and beIN Sports in America. Other live viewing options can be found here, and as always, we'll have a match thread live here for discussion of the game at hand. You can also follow along with us live on Twitter.