MX23RW : Tuesday, June 15 08:57:32| >> :120:50231:50231:
Feb 3, 2021 at 7.45pm UK at Stadio San Paolo, Napoli
NapoliNapoli
0-0
AtalantaAtalanta BC

Koulibaly (88')
FT

Romero (64')

Preview: Napoli vs. Atalanta BC - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Wednesday's Coppa Italia clash between Napoli and Atalanta BC, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Holders Napoli host an Atalanta BC outfit looking to get their hands on the Coppa Italia for the first time in nearly 60 years, at the iconic Stadio Diego Maradona.

Wednesday's first leg of the cup semi-final will go some way to deciding who will meet either Inter Milan or Juventus in what is sure to be a final befitting the competition's long and illustrious history.


Match preview

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

As their Serie A form has waned slightly since the turn of the year, Napoli sit sixth in the tightly-packed top half of the Serie A standings and are nine points off top spot - albeit with a game in hand on most sides around them - including Atalanta, who they now lead by a point.

Head coach Gennaro Gattuso - who has yet to agree a new contract with the club's similarly fiery president Aurelio de Laurentiis ahead of his current deal's expiry in the summer - has seen his position come under scrutiny in recent weeks. The former Milan boss has complained of "being slaughtered" by the media and that events have been "badly managed" by the club hierarchy.

An improvement in fortunes during the past few days, however, brought victory over Parma, following an impressive quarter-final cup win over Spezia last week.

Apparently in cruise-mode, the Partenopei strode into a four-goal lead by half time before carelessly allowing their Ligurian visitors a couple of consolation goals in the second period, as Gattuso's men stayed on-track for a second Coppa Italia triumph in as many years.

Certainly they have few issues scoring goals from all quarters and 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 fired in the most shots of any Italian team this season.

The odd blip aside, they have been relatively resilient at the back too. Defensive mainstay Kalidou Koulibaly scored the opening goal in the previous round and has since spoken out in support of his manager, claiming that this current Napoli unit are one of the best in which he has featured so far.

If they are to prove the much-admired Senegal international right, his teammates must focus fully on Wednesday's dangerous opponents, who they previously managed to defeat 4-1 earlier in the Serie A campaign.

Atalanta's Cristian Romero celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates on January 23, 2021© Reuters

Atalanta last reached the Coppa Italia final as recently 2019, arriving in search of a first piece of major silverware - being crowned Serie B champions notwithstanding - since 1963.

On that occasion La Dea were defeated by Lazio - an opponent who they have become all too familiar with again in the past week. Gian Piero Gasperini's side fell to a disappointing home defeat against the steadily strengthening Biancocelesti in league action at the weekend - a mere matter of days since overcoming the Roman outfit in the cup quarter-finals.

Having bade a bittersweet farewell to out-of-favour captain Papu Gomez shortly before the game, the Nerazzurri progressed 3-2 in Bergamo last week - despite being reduced to ten men for most of the second half when Jose Luis Palomino was sent off.

With Sunday's subsequent reversal against the same opposition just their second defeat in 15 matches - and first of the calendar year - attack-minded Atalanta will still travel south in a positive frame of mind.

A further two meetings with their Neapolitan counterparts this month - first in the second leg, then soon after in the league - could prove telling for the hopes of the Bergamaschi in turning their abundant promise and inherent 'watchability' into something more solid and silver.

Napoli Coppa Italia form: WWW
Napoli form (all competitions): WWLLWW

Atalanta BC Coppa Italia form: WWW
Atalanta BC form (all competitions): WDDWWL


Team News

Dries Mertens in action for Napoli on October 2, 2019© Reuters

An injury-scarred campaign continues for Napoli stalwart Dries Mertens, as the Belgian forward has returned to his homeland for treatment on an ankle injury. The 33-year-old limped off during the defeat at Inter Milan last month with a sprained left ankle and has struggled for fitness since.

Midfielder Fabian Ruiz has been out of action with COVID-19, so must wait to return a negative test before rejoining his teammates. Otherwise, Gennaro Gattuso has a clean bill of health and is expected to name a strong XI - with tight calls to be made between Andrea Petagna and Victor Osimhen up front and in the ongoing saga of Alex Meret versus David Ospina in goal.

For the visitors, Gian Piero Gasperini has a significant defensive headache to resolve, as Jose Luis Palomino is suspended following his dismissal in the quarter-final and Cristian Romero tested positive for COVID-19 late last week.

Back-up Bosko Sutalo is also in doubt, so Mattia Caldara could complete the back three with regulars Rafael Toloi and Berat Djimsiti. Wing-back Hans Hateboer remains a concern though, so new signing Joakim Maehle could continue on the right, while key attacking threat Robin Gosens will be back after serving a suspension in Serie A.

Possessor of a formidable goals-per-minute ratio, striker Luis Muriel was afforded a rare start in the previous round and may again swap places with compatriot Duvan Zapata at the Maradona.

Napoli possible starting lineup:
Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Koulibaly, Hysaj; Elmas, Bakayoko; Lozano, Zielinski, Insigne; Petagna

Atalanta BC possible starting lineup:
Gollini; Toloi, Caldara, Djimsiti; Maehle, De Roon, Freuler, Gosens; Pessina, Malinovskyi; Muriel


SM words green background

We say: Napoli 2-1 Atalanta BC

With at least 180 minutes to play out between two high-quality but slightly flawed sides, the entertainment value of this semi-final match-up promises to be high.

Napoli can eke out a narrow advantage to take to Lombardy next week, as they seem to find goals from contributors all over the pitch and Atalanta have been defensively suspect in their two most recent outings.


Top betting tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a double chance bet on a home win or an away win 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.Home/Away:data


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TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1 38287389355491
2 38247774413379
3 38239690474378
4 38239677383978
5 38245986414577
6 38215126155668
7 381881268581062
8 381711106456862
9 38157165254-252
10 381112154648-245
11 381012164758-1142
12 381011175165-1441
13 38913164759-1240
14 381010184258-1640
15 38912175272-2039
16 38910194359-1637
17 38716155069-1937
18 38712194075-3533
19 3865274592-4723
20 38311243983-4420

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