The Derby del Sole is back, and it's loaded with more meaning than it's had in a very, very long time. With Napoli's form faltering of late and their grasp on second place looking somewhat tenuous, this match against Roma could prove massively important come the end of the season.
Napoli just a five-point lead over Roma, and it's that wide only because the giallorossi have drawn two of their last three matches. Roma have been on a good run of late, going 13 matches unbeaten, one match longer than Napoli's best undefeated streak this season. That form has seen them go from a distant and minor concern to knocking on Napoli's door in the table, and a win in the Derby could prove extremely problematic for the partenopei.
Fortunately for Napoli, they're coming into this match healthy, with no players out or suspended. Gonzalo Higuain will be available for the first time since his ill-fated temper tantrum against Udinese, and all of the various knocks and niggles and dings that have plagued parts of the squad of late seem to be in the past. The same cannot be said for Roma, who have both of their primary center backs -- Kostas Manolas and Antonio Rüdiger -- dinged up and in varying degrees of doubt for the match, as well as crucial playmaker Miralem Pjanic and several key reserves.
Now, this match isn't an absolute must-win for Napoli. A draw is borderline acceptable and a draw is survivable, though the latter result would give Napoli absolutely no room for error for the remainder of the season. Their fate would still be in their hands, but even so much as a draw between this match and the end of the season would see Roma be able to take control. That's not a situation Napoli or their fans want to be in, so please, for the love of Maradona, just f**king win.
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
AS Roma: Szczesny; Maicon, Manolas, Rüdiger, Digne; Florenzi, De Rossi, Pjanic; Salah, Dzeko, El Shaarawy
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Jorginho, Hamsik; Gabbiadini, Higuain, Insigne
At A Glance
AS Roma: 3rd; 19W 11D 4L; League Form: WDDWDW
Napoli: 2nd; 22W 7D 5L; League Form: WLWLWW
Reverse Fixture: Napoli 0-0 Roma
The match may have ended scoreless, but the first edition of the Derby del Sole this season was a very intense affair that could have swung either way several times. Napoli could and should have won, but a few heroic defensive stands by Roma kept them at bay -- barely. Kalidou Koulibaly shone as brightly as he has all season in that match, single-handedly blunting Roma's attack for much of the day.
TV: beIN Sports (U.S. - English), beIN Sports en Español (U.S. - Spanish), Sky Calcio 1, Sky Sport 1 HD Italia (Italy), BT Sport Europe (U.K.), RAI International
Online: fuboTV, beIN Sports Connect (U.S.), 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.