MX23RW : Wednesday, July 28 08:11:45| >> :600:5862736:5862736:
Feb 6, 2021 at 7.45pm UK at Stadio Luigi Ferraris
Pandev (11', 26')
Badelj (29'), Czyborra (57')
FT(HT: 2-0)
Politano (79')
Lozano (74'), Rui (90+4')

Preview: Genoa vs. Napoli - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Serie A clash between Genoa and Napoli, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Serie A's most improved team will welcome Scudetto outsiders Napoli to Stadio Luigi Ferraris on Saturday, as Genoa look to continue their recent renaissance under new coach Davide Ballardini.

Having won three of their last four in the league without conceding a goal, the hosts have risen to 14th in the standings thanks to their new-found solidity, while the visitors hope to improve after an inconsistent January.

Match preview

Davide Ballardini, now in charge of Genoa, pictured in January 2018© Reuters

Leading Genoa out of the relegation zone after a disastrous start to the season with Rolando Maran in charge, Davide Ballardini has overseen a remarkable turnaround in their fortunes of late. Changing the man in the dugout has seen the Grifone soar six points above the relegation zone, as key players have finally started to fire.

Mattia Destro bagged a brace in Genoa's 3-0 win at Crotone last week and has been the most productive Serie A striker over the last two months, finding the target eight times since early December. Generally starting alongside Eldor Shomurodov in Ballardini's preferred 3-5-2, the former Milan man has thrived upon the greater support - and starting opportunities - he has been offered.

The striking pair's progress is highlighted by the fact that in-demand forward Gianluca Scamacca - on loan from Sassuolo but apparently very close to signing for Juventus last month - and talented Croatia international Marko Pjaca have been starved of starts lately.

Furthermore, new signing Kevin Strootman has proved a stabilising presence in the midfield - earning lavish praise from his new boss Ballardini - while the previously leaky defence has also shut out Atalanta, Bologna and Cagliari in the last few weeks.

An encounter with Napoli's potent strikeforce this weekend will now prove a stern test of the Grifone's credentials as an upwardly mobile mid-table outfit, as they face a team which has recorded the most shots on goal away from home and also have the best possession stats when on the road.

Napoli's Nikola Maksimovic pictured in July 2020© Reuters

Bringing an extra central defender - Serbian stopper Nikola Maksimovic - into his lineup against Atalanta in midweek demonstrated an underappreciated tactical flexibility in Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso's armoury. Not known for such radical ploys, his decision to switch to a 3-4-3 surprised most onlookers - not least Atalanta's tactical maestro Gian Piero Gasperini.

As that tweak - plus the adoption of a 'false nine' up front - helped the reigning Coppa Italia holders to take a satisfactory goalless draw from their semi-final first leg, Gattuso highlighted his players' adaptability after the game.

Certainly, in recent weeks the Partenopei's well-established 'Plan A' has been picked off on occasion - with defeats to Juventus and Verona slightly souring an otherwise positive spell for the sixth-placed side.

In that period, problems between the coach and president have bubbled to the surface on multiple occasions, while defeat in the Supercoppa Italiana and a growing injury list seem to have curbed the enthusiasm of the Neapolitan faithful. Furthermore, Gattuso has complained of "being slaughtered" by the media and that events have been "badly managed" by the club hierarchy.

An improvement in on-field fortunes during the past fortnight, however, brought league victory over Parma following an impressive cup quarter-final success against Spezia.

Napoli clearly have few difficulties scoring goals from all quarters. Despite the absence - for various reasons - of strikers Arkadiusz Milik (now departed on loan to Marseille), Dries Mertens and Victor Osimhen throughout much of the first half of their campaign, Napoli's remaining attackers have thrived - with Hirving Lozano rising to prominence, sometimes even deputising as an elusive central striker.

In the coming week, after they face Genoa, Napoli will play out the deciding leg of their Coppa semi-final before taking on Juventus in the league. A return to Europa League action then follows for one of Calcio's busiest sides.

Genoa Serie A form: DLWDWW
Genoa form (all competitions): LWLDWW

Napoli Serie A form: WLWWLW
Napoli form (all competitions): WLLWWD

Team News

Napoli manager Gennaro Gattuso pictured on January 24, 2021© Reuters

Visiting coach Gennaro Gattuso must continue to deal with a series of fixtures every few days, as his overworked outfit are back in Coppa Italia action on Wednesday. The former Milan manager is not expected to retain the three-man defence employed against Atalanta in midweek but could potentially produce some more surprise changes.

Both Kalidou Koulibaly and Faouzi Ghoulam tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, while Dries Mertens has travelled to Belgium for treatment on an ankle injury and fellow forward Lorenzo Insigne has a minor calf problem which will be reassessed before kickoff.

Influential midfielder Fabian Ruiz has been cleared to return from quarantine, but will not return to the squad until next week. Therefore, Piotr Zielinski and Eljif Elmas should come back into the Napoli XI after dropping to the bench in the cup.

Big-money buy Victor Osimhen is approaching full fitness and can now contend with Andrea Petagna for the centre-forward spot.

Genoa coach Davide Ballardini benefits from a settled side and is expected to retain the same personnel in a 3-5-2 formation.

Cristian Zapata and Luca Pellegrini are set to come back into the Genoa squad after injury and will start on the bench, as experienced defenders Andrea Masiello and Domenico Criscito again helm the back line.

The increasingly established midfield trio of Kevin Strootman, Milan Badelj and Miha Zajc continues to offer balance in the engine room, with Eldor Shomurodov once more joining top scorer Mattia Destro up front.

Genoa possible starting lineup:
Perin; Masiello, Radovanovic, Criscito; Zappacosta, Strootman, Badelj, Zajc, Czyborra; Shomurodov, Destro

Napoli possible starting lineup:
Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Maksimovic, Rui; Demme, Bakayoko; Zielinski, Elmas, Lozano; Petagna

SM words green background

We say: Genoa 1-1 Napoli

Given Genoa's new-found resilience and lighter workload relative to their visitors, the transformation under Davide Ballardini can continue with a draw against high-flyers Napoli this Saturday.

With at least half an eye on next week's high-profile meetings with Atalanta and Juventus serving to distract Gennaro Gattuso's side, they may have to settle for a point on the notoriously lumpy Marassi pitch.

Top betting tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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· Katie Ledecky and Ariarne Titmus face off again in the women's 200m freestyle final, with the latter having already come out on top in the 400m event (2.41am)
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· Team GB take on New Zealand in the first men's semi-final, having been beaten by reigning champions Fiji but then come from behind to overcome USA on day two (3am)
· The sevens gold medal match takes place at Tokyo Stadium, with the winner of Great Britain vs. New Zealand taking on either Argentina or Fiji (10am)

· Joe Fraser and James Hall compete for Team GB in the men's all-around final (11.15am-2.10pm)

· Anna Shackley will take part in the women's road time trial (from 3.30am)
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· Jack Laugher bids to retain his men's 3m synchro diving title alongside new partner Daniel Goodfellow (7am)

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