The Derby del Sole is always a contentious one, pitting the two biggest teams in the south of Italy against one another in a battle for supremacy. This time, though, Napoli host AS Roma in a match with major title chase implications, making this one more important than the Derby has been in a long time.
Thanks to Napoli's loss taking them out of first place last week, the top end of the table is knotted up even closer and more chaotically than ever. It's a mess at the top of the table, and the results of the match could change a lot of things, both good and bad for either Napoli or Roma.
A win for Napoli could take them back up to second place -- depending on what Fiorentina do against Juventus later on in Sunday's action, that is. A win for Napoli with a loss or draw for La Viola would let Napoli take advantage of the one-point gap currently in effect, and either way would see them sit two points back of league-leading Inter, who thumped Udinese on Saturday to assure that they'd stay in first for now. A loss for Roma is bad news, allowing Juventus to leapfrog them into fourth place with a win -- and a draw would only add to the league's chaos, as a Juventus win would see them sitting just two points back of Napoli.
Let's not even speak of the scenarios of a Napoli loss. Too much insanity possible there.
Regardless, this is a must-win match for Napoli, but fortunately they come into this match in good health. Gonzalo Higuain, Marek Hamsik, Pepe Reina, and Faouzi Ghoulam were all fully rested in the midweek Europa League match, and Kalidou Koulibaly, Lorenzo Insigne, Jose Callejon, Allan, and Raul Albiol all only played for part of the match. Dries Mertens proved on Thursday that he's back to his old self, and will be ready to make an impact off the bench when called upon. Manolo Gabbiadini is still a question mark, but they're much better off than they were even a couple of weeks ago.
Roma's health is somewhat less solid, with Gervinho and Francesco Totti both unlikely to play and key defensive rotation man Vasilis Torosidis out. Their form has suffered of late, losing two of their last five and winning just one match in that same period. Rudi Garcia's job is on the line right now, with Roma falling short of expectations, and not just in Serie A. They only barely scraped by to qualify for the Champions League knockout rounds, relying on Barcelona keeping Bayern Leverkusen from a win in order for their dull, scoreless draw at home against lowly BATE Borisov to get them through.
Facing a good team in a must-win situation in a major regional derby can go one of two ways: either they come up big and it hurts like hell, or they break and you tromp all over them. Having the match in what will be a very rowdy and pro-Napoli environment at the San Paolo will certainly help tip things towards the latter result that favors Napoli, but Maurizio Sarri and company will still have to make sure to execute their gameplan with ruthless efficiency right from the start in order to best avoid the former outcome.
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
AS Roma: Szczesny; Maicon, Manolas, Rüdiger, Digne; Florenzi, Nainggolan, Pjanic; Salah, Dzeko, Falque
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Jorginho, Hamsik; Callejon, Higuain, Insigne
At A Glance
AS Roma: 4th; 8W 4D 3L; League Form: DLDWL
Napoli: 3rd; 9W 4D 2L; League Form: LWWWD
TV: beIN Sports (U.S. & Canada), Sky Calcio 1, Sky Sports 1 HD Italia (Italy), BT Sport 1 (U.K.), RAI International
Online: Fubo TV, beIN Sports Connect (U.S. & Canada), Sky Go Italia (Italy), BT Sport Live Streaming (U.K.)
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, and we'll have updates of the most important events on our Facebook page, which you should definitely like.