MX23RW : Tuesday, January 26 06:24:41| >> :600:147702:147702:
Jan 13, 2021 at 4.45pm UK at Stadio San Paolo
NapoliNapoli
3-2
EmpoliEmpoli
Di Lorenzo (18'), Lozano (38'), Petagna (77')
FT(HT: 2-1)
Bajrami (33', 68')
Olivieri (45+1')

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

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

Cup holders Napoli welcome Serie B-leading Empoli to Stadio Diego Maradona on Tuesday, taking the first step in their defence of the Coppa Italia.

Having beaten old foes Juventus in last year's final, the Partenopei take on Alessio Dionisi's in-form side in the last 16 of this season's competition.


Match preview

Napoli midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko celebrates scoring on January 10, 2021© Reuters

Ahead of kicking off their cup defence, Tiemoue Bakayoko's forceful last-minute header earned Napoli all three points in Serie A action at the weekend, as Gennaro Gattuso's team eventually overcame a resolute Udinese outfit at the Dacia Arena.

Currently on loan from Chelsea - after similar spells with Milan and former club Monaco - the French midfielder has established himself as an integral part of Gattuso's XI this term - featuring in all but one league game so far.

His late winner ensured Napoli, who had been going through a sticky patch either side of Christmas, kept pace in the race for Champions League qualification. In the Serie A standings, the Partenopei now sit in fifth place - alongside key rivals Atalanta on 31 points.

Italian media sources reported enraged screams and punches to the walls of Stadio Diego Maradona after Napoli's inexplicable home loss to lowly Spezia last week, as their furious coach unleashed his characteristically fiery temper upon his squad, whose collective character he subsequently called into question.

That outburst was perhaps a risk for Gattuso, who has yet to agree a new contract with the club's similarly fervent president, Aurelio de Laurentiis ahead of his current deal's expiry in the summer.

Having rebounded from a spell of three league defeats in five, the former Milan manager can turn his full focus towards the visit of Serie B promotion favourites Empoli, as Napoli look to claim a seventh Coppa in the spring.

The modest Tuscan club - who have yet to win the coveted trophy in their 100-year history - arrive in Naples having lost just one league game all season, leaving them three points clear of second-placed Salernitana.

Unlike their fellow Azzurri outfit, Napoli - who enter the cup at this stage due to involvement in European competition - Empoli have made it through three previous rounds to reach the final 16.

Defeating Renate, overachieving Serie A newcomers Benevento and Brescia, former Venezia boss Alessio Dionisi - appointed last August - has guided his new club to a glamour tie at the Maradona.

Empoli warmed up for their toughest test of the season with a 2-0 win at struggling Cosenza last time out - with on-loan duo Ryder Matos (of Udinese) and Marco Olivieri (Juventus) starting up front - though will have had a nine-day break between games.

The winner of this tie is set to meet either Roma or Spezia in the quarter-finals, though it will take an almighty shock on Wednesday for the Serie B side to get that far.

Such an upset did occur the last time these two clubs met though, with Empoli pulling off a 2-1 home win in April 2019. Their XI that day featured current Serie A regulars including Milan pair Ismael Bennacer and Rade Krunic, now-Fiorentina goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski and Sassuolo stars Hamed Traore and Francesco Caputo.

A more moderate squad will travel south to meet the Neapolitan giants this time around - more in hope than expectation.

Napoli form (all competitions): LLDWLW

Empoli Coppa Italia form: WWW
Empoli form (all competitions): WDDWDW


Team News

Napoli manager Gennaro Gattuso pictured on January 10, 2021© Reuters

Given the intensity of the early-year schedule - and several injuries to star men - Gennaro Gattuso may take this opportunity to rotate his talented Napoli squad.

Following his disastrous debut against Udinese, which came a year after first signing from Verona, Kosovar defender Amir Rrahmani could be offered another opportunity due to a lack of available bodies in the centre of the back four. Giovanni Di Lorenzo - who faces an upcoming suspension in Serie A - is also likely to feature at the back, alongside Faouzi Ghoulam and Nikola Maksimovic, as first-choices Kalidou Koulibaly and Kostas Manolas are both out.

In midfield, Stanislav Lobotka could feature, with veteran Fernando Llorente competing for a start with Andrea Petagna up front. Dries Mertens and Victor Osimhen remain unavailable and instead aim to be fit for the Supercoppa Italiana against Juventus next week.

Empoli coach Alessio Dionisi must do without the injured Filippo Bandinelli and Davide Zappella but has most of his squad available to consider for selection.

Expected to adhere to his usual 4-3-1-2 setup, Dionisi's defence should comprise Simone Romagnoli and Nicolo Casale in the centre, with on-loan Riccardo Fiamozzi and former Avellino full-back Fabiano Parisi on the flanks.

Playmaker Nedim Bajrami will support Matos and Olivieri up front, though either Andrea La Mantia or Leonardo Mancuso - the club's top scorer in the Coppa Italia so far - could start in the front pairing.

Napoli possible starting lineup:
Meret; Di Lorenzo, Maksimovic, Rrahmani, Ghoulam; Demme, Lobotka; Politano, Zielinski, Insigne; Llorente

Empoli possible starting lineup:
Furlan; Fiamozzi, Casale, Romagnoli, Parisi; Ricci, Stulac, Haas; Bajrami; Matos, Olivieri


SM words green background

We say: Napoli 2-1 Empoli

Undoubtedly, Napoli are justifiably strong favourites - given their status as current cup holders and serial top-four contenders in Serie A.

Empoli could nonetheless give a changed Partenopei XI a real run for their money in this battle of the Azzurri, having proved a compact and creatively capable side in the second tier this season.


Top betting tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 2.5 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.Over 2.5:data


ID:430069:cQx

How you voted: Napoli vs Empoli

Napoli
81.1%
Empoli
18.9%
90
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Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly pictured in July 2020
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1AC Milan19134239221743
2Inter Milan19125245232241
3Roma1911444132937
4Atalanta BCAtalanta19106344232136
5Juventus18106237181936
6Lazio1910453226634
7Napoli18111641192234
8SassuoloSassuolo198653229330
9Hellas VeronaHellas Verona198652518730
10Sampdoria198293029126
11BeneventoBenevento196492336-1322
12Fiorentina195682030-1021
13Bologna195592433-920
14SpeziaSpezia194692636-1018
15Genoa194691930-1118
16Udinese194692028-818
17CagliariCagliari1935112337-1414
18Torino192892837-914
19Parma1927101436-2213
20Crotone1933132243-2112

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