Carlo Ancelotti made eight changes to the starting 11 from Thursday's 3-0 Europa League win against RB Salzburg and it showed. Napoli looked disjointed throughout the match and were fortunate to escape with a point in Sassuolo thanks to a late Lorenzo Insigne goal. The changes made to the lineup clearly show that Ancelotti is prioritizing the Europa League, but it was a disappointing performance especially given how much the depth of this Napoli side has been praised. The highlight of the game for Napoli has to be the fans, who showed up in great numbers to the Mapei Stadium to support the Partenopei.
Napoli struggled throughout the first half and while players like Adam Ounas looked lively at times, poor decision making in the final third led to a lack of many real opportunities. Dries Mertens had the best chance of the first half, but was unable to capitalize on a great through ball thanks to a goal saving tackle by Sassuolo defender Merih Demiral. Sassulo broke the deadlock in the 52nd minute when Allan’s sliding tackle was unable to knock the ball out of play and Domenico Berardi pounced on the chance to give the home side the 1-0 lead. David Ospina, in for the suspended Alex Meret, could do nothing about the goal as Berardi’s shot was deflected right in front of him by Sebastiano Luperto. Frustration continued for the away side as Napoli continuously gave away possession cheaply and were unable to get into any real rhythm. Despite this, Insigne found the equalizer in the 86th minute as a failed attempt of a clearance by Francesco Magnanelli fell perfectly to the Napoli captain, who slotted it into the back of the net.
The loss means that Napoli are now 18 points behind leaders Juventus and only six points ahead of third place Inter Milan. While the Partenopei are almost a lock for a Champions League place at the end of the season, their recent league form is still worrying as they only have one win in their last five matches. All Napoli’s attention will now be on their midweek Europa League clash with RB Salzburg. While the team has a 3-0 lead from the first leg, they will be without the centerbacks Kalidou Koulibaly, Nikola Maksimovic, and Raul Albiol due to suspensions and injury. Furthermore, centerback Vlad Chiriches came off at halftime with an apparent knock although the extent of the injury is still unknown.