MX23RW : Wednesday, July 28 06:51:47| >> :600:145628:145628:
Feb 28, 2021 at 5pm UK at Stadio San Paolo
NapoliNapoli
2-0
BeneventoBenevento
Mertens (34'), Politano (66')
Koulibaly (58'), Di Lorenzo (61')
Koulibaly (81')
FT(HT: 1-0)

Barba (80'), Hetemaj (83')

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

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

After suffering double disappointment in the past week, inconsistent Napoli welcome their Campanian counterparts Benevento to Stadio Diego Maradona on Sunday, intent on making up lost ground on Serie A's top four.

Meanwhile, the visitors continue to defy expectations this season, with their latest positive performance resulting in a gritty draw against high-flying Roma last time out.


Match preview

Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso reacts in the Europa League on February 18, 2021© Reuters

Ahead of their last-32 first-leg loss in the Europa League a week ago, injury-hit Napoli could name just 12 senior outfield players in their squad and remained seriously depleted during a subsequent defeat to their close rivals for a European spot, Atalanta, last Sunday.

Now sitting in seventh place in the standings - though just four points adrift of the Champions League places and with a game in hand on most other sides - the Partenopei have caused concern both for their under-pressure coach and his tempestuous boss, club president Aurelio De Laurentiis.

Gennaro Gattuso's case for a new contract weakened further in midweek as, despite a dominant display on home soil against La Liga upstarts Granada, they crashed out of European competition, 3-2 on aggregate - just a matter of days after their Coppa Italia defence came to an end in the semi-finals.

Previously beaten in the league by cup conquerors Atalanta - following an incredible six-goal second half which saw the Bergamo side run out 4-2 winners at the Gewiss Stadium - the Neapolitan giants sorely need to bounce back against Benevento this weekend.

Napoli have, though, won each of their last three home games in Serie A - in addition to their ultimately fruitless second-leg Europa League victory at the Maradona - so should be heavily fancied against their more modest cousins, who they have beaten three times out of three in Serie A clashes and to whom they doled out their biggest top-flight defeat back in 2017, a 6-0 thumping in Naples.

In those three previous home outings, wins over Fiorentina, Parma and Juventus have been secured, with 10 goals scored and none conceded during that spell.

With top goalscorer and captain Lorenzo Insigne (10 league goals) manfully managing to cover for the absences and failings of the team's main strikers, he will relish a reunion with younger brother, Benevento forward Roberto on Sunday. Napoli's diminutive skipper always leads from the front with whole-hearted performances and remains determined to salvage something from a challenging campaign.

Benevento manager Filippo Inzaghi pictured in January 2021© Reuters

Only a demonstration of great character and collective spirit saw Pippo Inzaghi's Benevento over the line against Roma last week, as the Streghe somehow salvaged a goalless draw despite being a man down for the final half-hour. Relinquishing over more than two-thirds of possession against the capital club's numerous talented ball-players following Kamil Glik's dismissal, they held on for what could prove to be an invaluable point in the final analysis.

Even if they remain a full 10 points clear of the trapdoor back to the second tier though, the Serie B champions have struggled since the turn of the year and are now winless in seven straight games.

Suffering as a result of a weakening offensive input and conceding too many opportunities at the other end, during that spell without victory, Benevento have leaked 16 goals at an average of nearly two-and-a-half per game. Having netted only twice in their past four matches too, Inzaghi's previously buoyant attack has cooled significantly and the Stadio Vigorito-based side now average just over a single goal per game this term.

The former Juventus striker and Milan boss, who will serve a touchline ban on Sunday, must therefore have serious concerns about his misfiring front men. Both main striker Gianluca Lapadula and fellow forward Gianluca Caprari enjoyed a hot streak of form back in the autumn, but their goal supply has seriously dried up in recent weeks.

Footballing romantics and Benevento tifosi alike would, therefore, like nothing better than to see back-up striker Roberto Insigne emerge from the shadows again, as he did when sharing a spot on the scoresheet with big brother Lorenzo the last time these two clubs met in October. The former Napoli primavera player now returns to the place where it all began in his professional career, highly motivated to make an impact if given the chance.

Napoli Serie A form: WLWLWL
Napoli form (all competitions): LLWLLW

Benevento Serie A form: LDLDDD


Team News

Napoli's Victor Osimhen reacts on January 24, 2021© Reuters

Expensively procured striker Victor Osimhen leads the long list of probable absentees for the home side, as Napoli are also set to be without defenders Kostas Manolas and Elseid Hysaj, forwards Hirving Lozano and Andrea Petagna, plus Diego Demme and first-choice goalkeeper David Ospina.

Gennaro Gattuso is expected to revert to a more familiar 4-3-1-2, following a move to a three-man defence versus Granada in midweek, with either Nikola Maksimovic or Amir Rrahmani dropping out and Mario Rui coming in at left-back.

Veteran forward Dries Mertens - set for a 250th Serie A appearance - could make another cameo from the bench, as he gradually returns to full fitness, with Matteo Politano most likely to support Lorenzo Insigne in attack.

Benevento's defensive stalwart Kamil Glik, who has been ever-present this season, will serve a suspension for his red card against Roma. Otherwise, though, only forwards Riccardo Improta and Iago Falque should be missing for the visitors, as Gaetano Letizia is set to recover from his thigh injury in time to earn a spot on the bench.

Alessandro Tuia is favourite to deputise for Glik at centre-back, while ex-Napoli man Roberto Insigne will hope - probably in vain - to usurp Nicolas Viola or Artur Ionita in the Stregoni attack.

Napoli possible starting lineup:
Meret; Di Lorenzo, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Rui; Bakayoko, Ruiz, Elmas; Zielinski; Politano, Insigne

Benevento possible starting lineup:
Montipo; Depaoli, Tuia, Caldirola, Barba; Hetemaj, Schiattarella, Viola; Ionita, Caprari; Lapadula


SM words green background

We say: Napoli 3-1 Benevento

Napoli's recent home form is particularly strong and Benevento's best performances have tended to come on the road.

With both sides enduring rocky starts to 2021 though, their greater individual quality and more pressing need for points should see the hosts take advantage of their local rivals' flaws at both ends.

A repeat of last autumn's result at the Vigorito is to be expected, with the Azzurri's domination over their neighbours extending to four wins out of four.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a home 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 Win:data


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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is sent off for AC Milan against Inter Milan in the Coppa Italia on January 26, 2021
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ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS
· Joe Fraser and James Hall compete for Team GB in the men's all-around final (11.15am-2.10pm)

CYCLING
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