MX23RW : Saturday, September 18 14:41:43| >> :120:10332:10332:
May 23, 2021 at 7.45pm UK at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona
Hellas VeronaHellas Verona
Rrahmani (60')
Lozano (20'), Gattuso (62'), Bakayoko (71'), Hysaj (90')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Faraoni (69')
Ilic (32'), Dawidowicz (38'), Udogie (54'), Dimarco (56'), Juric (62')

Preview: Napoli vs. Hellas Verona - prediction, team news, lineups

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

Napoli enter the final game of the season with their destiny in their own hands, as they host Hellas Verona at Stadio Maradona on Sunday.

Sitting fourth - one point ahead of old foes Juventus in the shake-up for Champions League qualification - an Azzurri win would secure their place in Europe's elite next term, while their mid-table visitors are playing only for pride.

Match preview

Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso on May 16, 2021© Reuters

Keeping their noses ahead of fellow top-four contestants Juventus - and now pulling level with Milan - during the past fortnight, free-flowing Napoli look to have peaked at just the right time.

Back-to-back wins over Spezia and Udinese - by an aggregate score of nine goals to two - were followed, last weekend, by the victory they needed to preserve their place in Serie A's top four. In-form captain Lorenzo Insigne not only hit the woodwork twice, but also netted the rebound from his saved penalty against Fiorentina; taking the fight down to the final day.

Several attacking stars have hit top form for the Neapolitans in recent weeks and Gennaro Gattuso's confident squad can now approach Sunday's date with destiny - versus yet another mid-table opponent in under-par shape - having rattled in 19 goals in their last six outings, at a rate of more than three per game.

Despite continuing rumours as to his future in the Stadio Maradona dugout, Gattuso has led Napoli to already achieve greater points and goals hauls than last season, while also conceding fewer times in the league.

Not only that, but they need to strike just once on Sunday to set a new record for home goals in a Serie A season and, notably, no team has scored more goals from outside the box in a single league campaign than the 22 the prolific Partenopei have rattled home so far.

Indeed, coming into the last 90 minutes of a long and arduous campaign at home and abroad - which has seen the fiery coach clash several times with both the media and club president Aurelio De Laurentiis - the southern giants could yet finish second; as they sit only two points behind Milan and Atalanta, who play each other on the final day.

All of which calls into question the conjecture around Gattuso's future, particularly as Napoli have an apparently golden opportunity to secure their Champions League spot on home turf: they have won 17 of their last 21 Serie A fixtures versus Verona, also winning each of their last 11 home games against the Venetian side.

Hellas Verona coach Ivan Juric pictured on January 24, 2021© Reuters

Gattuso is not the only coach involved on Sunday whose current tenure may be coming to an end, as Ivan Juric has seen a highly-promising campaign turn sour in recent weeks.

In the aftermath of defeat to previously rock-bottom Crotone and a subsequent draw with Bologna - results which mean that his Verona side now have just one win from their last 12 league games - the Croatian coach has spoken freely about his squad's perceived deficiencies.

Aside from their "loser" mentality, Juric's European ambitions have been stymied by a severe shortage of goals from his strikers, as both Nikola Kalinic - who finally sparked into life with a second-half goal last Monday - and Kevin Lasagna have barely registered on the scoresheet this term.

In fact, only the failings of clubs just below them have prevented Hellas from losing their top-half status ahead of the final round, as they remain just inside the top 10, but are certainly staggering to the finish line.

After posting 30 points for the first half of the season, they have added only a further 14 since the halfway stage and only basement club Parma have gained fewer points than their meagre six over the last 12 matches.

Concerningly, now facing one of the toughest road trips in Calcio to conclude their campaign, the Gialloblu have also lost each of their last three away games. Only memories of their 3-1 comeback win in the reverse fixture - during happier times, in January - can even inspire hope of an against-the-odds triumph at the Maradona.

Napoli Serie A form:
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • W

Hellas Verona Serie A form:
  • L
  • L
  • D
  • D
  • L
  • D

Team News

Napoli's Nikola Maksimovic pictured in July 2020© Reuters

Though Napoli have been boosted by news that centre-back Nikola Maksimovic has cleared return-to-play protocols after suffering from COVID-19 and midfielder Stanislav Lobotka is now also available after a tonsillectomy, defensive lynchpin Kalidou Koulibaly's calf strain could still keep him out of the season finale.

Therefore, recent regulars Kostas Manolas and Amir Rrahmani may pair up again at the heart of the hosts' back four, with Alex Meret and David Ospina competing closely for the goalkeeping gloves behind them.

Pacy winger Hirving Lozano will be seeking to regain his place in the starting XI, ahead of current incumbent Matteo Politano, while in-form Victor Osimhen should once more lead the line, as club record scorer Dries Mertens settles for another second-half cameo.

Verona skipper Miguel Veloso made his return from neck surgery recently and could now feature at some stage, as Antonin Barak will miss out on the trip to Naples due to a suspension for yellow card accumulation. Fellow midfielder Ronaldo Vieira, however, has a persistent thigh problem, so will be absent again.

Marco Benassi is a further doubt, due to a calf strain, while it remains to be seen whether goalkeeper Marco Silvestri will be returned to the side after young Ivor Pandur unexpectedly started the last three games.

Meanwhile, up front, Nikola Kalinic's goal last time out should give him the edge over rivals Kevin Lasagna and Eddie Salcedo for the centre-forward's spot.

Napoli possible starting lineup:
Meret; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Rrahmani, Hysaj; Ruiz, Bakayoko; Lozano, Zielinski, Insigne; Osimhen

Hellas Verona possible starting lineup:
Pandur; Ceccherini, Gunter, Dimarco; Faraoni, Dawidowicz, Ilic, Lazovic; Zaccagni, Bessa; Kalinic

SM words green background

We say: Napoli 2-0 Hellas Verona

Something of a mismatch on recent form, Napoli should assert their supremacy over a dispirited Verona side on Sunday, despite the pressure weighing heavily on their shoulders.

Goals can come from several quarters for the free-scoring hosts, while the visitors are lacking any impetus in the final third and have been repeatedly called out by their frustrated manager.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at 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:curl

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