After a midweek victory over Leicester City that secured progress from their Europa League group, Napoli return to the Estadio Diego Armando Maradona on Sunday (5pm, UK time) to face mid-table Empoli, with designs on the top of the table.
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Where to watch Napoli vs Empoli on TV:
- UK: BT Sport
- US: FuboTV (click here to find out about free trial offer)
Napoli team news
Midweek against Leicester City, Napoli quickly jumped into a two-goal lead, which they soon surrendered, before finding a second-half winner to secure progress out of their Europa League group. Their last Serie A outing, against Atalanta, was also something of a roller coaster, as Napoli conceded early and scored twice themselves on either side of half-time, only to ship a pair of goals in a five-minute span after the hour mark.
That defeat was Napoli’s second by a 3-2 margin in four league games, after a 12-game unbeaten streak to start the season. As a result, Il Partenopei have been overtaken atop the Serie A table by the two Milan clubs, and now sit third, trailing second-place Inter by a single point, and leaders AC Milan by two.
Luciano Spalletti’s injury-plagued side returns to action having suffered even more losses, as Hirving Lozano was hurt against Leicester on Thursday. This comes on the heels of Stanislav Lobotka’s hamstring injury against Atalanta and top scorer Victor Osimhen’s fractured cheekbone which will keep him out for several months. They joined the already-sidelined duo of midfielder Andre-Frank Anguissa and defensive talisman Kalidou Koulibaly. There are hopes that Fabian Ruiz (groin) and Lorenzo Insigne (calf) are fit enough to return to the lineup, but even those are shrouded in doubt.
The loss of Koulibaly has been particularly tough for Napoli. Though the side still has the best defensive record in Serie A, with just 12 goals conceded in 16 league games, a staggering eight of those have come in the last four games – and five in the last two, which Koulibaly has missed. In all competitions, Napoli have allowed at least two goals in four of five outings.
Expect Diego Demme to continue in midfield, and a front three consisting of Dries Mertens, midweek scorer Adam Ounas and Andrea Petagna.
Napoli predicted XI: Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Jesus, Rui; Demme, Zielinski, Politano; Elmas, Ounas, Mertens.
Empoli team news
With seven points from their past three outings, Empoli boast the best short-term form of any Serie A side other than Inter and Atalanta. They’d have wanted more than a 2-2 draw against a 13th-place Torino that were reduced to 10 men for nearly two-thirds of their matchup two weeks ago, but the Azzurri shook off the disappointment with a 3-1 home victory over Udinese last time out.
Given Empoli’s clean bill of health (only 19-year-old defender Mattia Viti is expected to be out) and Napoli’s recent defensive struggles, an attack spearheaded by Nedim Bajrami (who scored in the last game against Udinese) and Andrea Pinamonti, who leads the side with six goals, will come in confident.
With 23 points from their 16 matches, Empoli (currently 11th) sit not only in touching distance of the top half, but within just four points of Juventus and Fiorentina in fifth/sixth. Empoli, thus far, are enjoying one of their best-ever top-flight campaigns and, with four wins in seven away games, will be liking their chances of taking something from a shorthanded Napoli side.
Empoli predicted XI: Vicario; Stojanovic, Romagnoli, Tonelli, Parisi; Haas, Ricci, Zurkowski; Bajrami, Pinamonti, Di Francesco
Serie A 2021/22 recent form:
- Napoli: DLWDL
- Empoli: DLWDW
Scoreline prediction: Napoli 2-2 Empoli.
Even at less than full strength, that Napoli are one of Serie A’s top sides is unquestionable. However, a quick turnaround from the Europa League, combined with a growing list of injuries to key contributors is going to take its toll at some point. A visit from a spirited, in-form, mid-table side is probably not what they need right now. Expect to see goals, and for Empoli to make Napoli work for everything. In the end , though, each side should have enough to come away with a point.
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