Napoli vs Inter Milan Preview: Partenopei and Nerazzurri face off in battle for European places

Napoli vs Inter Milan Preview: Partenopei and Nerazzurri face off in battle for European places

Saturday's Serie A clash of Maurizio Sarri's Napoli against Stefano Pioli's Inter will certainly be a must win for both sides if they are serious about their ambitions of European qualification this season.

Ninad Barbadikar

Napoli facing Inter Milan might not be the glamorous fixture it used to be in earlier seasons, but it still counts for both sides as they face a struggle to turn their seasons around and finish as high as they can.

Napoli and Inter sit 7th and 8th respectively in the Serie A table and three points would see the Partenopei move one step closer to the top five and for the Nerazzurri, three points would be a huge boost in their efforts for European qualification.

Looking at the six times the two teams have previously played each other, Napoli has won two, Inter has won two and the scoreline has ended as a draw on two occasions, there isn't much to choose from.

But Pioli's Inter can be positive with the fact that those two victories came very recently this year in the Serie A and Coppa Italia and therefore they have a slight psychological advantage going into Saturday's game.

Napoli will hope to hinder Inter's attacking threat and impose themselves on the match

For Napoli, it will be vital to prevent Inter's creative attackers to get a foothold on the game and create any chances, the front four of Antonio Candreva, Ever Banega, Ivan Perisic and Inter captain Mauro Icardi present a considerable challenge for any defense, let alone Napoli's and therefore Raul Albiol and co. will have to be on full alert.

Icardi leads the scoring charts of the Serie A and is a favourite for the Capocanoniere this season with 12 goals already and the Argentinian hotshot will want to make the Partenopei his next target. The Inter captain has influenced the team with not just goals but assists as well, four of them so far this term. These numbers prove that he is a threat to Napolis' defence and will be a major threat if not contained.

The trio of Candreva, Banega and Perisic will look to work at it defensively to match Napoli's pacy attackers in the form of Jose Callejon, Lorenzo Insigne and Manolo Gabbiadini. Callejon and Insigne have been in fine form this season. The pace and direct nature of the trio will be essential if they are to break down an Inter defence for which clean sheets have been hard to come by recently.

Captain Marek Hamsik as ever has been contributing with goals and assists and his tireless performances for the Partenopei this season and will hope that he can lead his teammates to victory against the Nerazzurri.

Inter will look to be solid at the back and support Icardi

Recent games has seen an increase in the amount of goals that Inter concede and Stefano Pioli will be hoping that his side can stay tight at the back against the dangerous Napoli attackers. The Nerazzurri have workhorses all over the pitch and two solid central defensive midfielders in Marcelo Brozovic and Geoffrey Kondogbia who will play a vital part in aiding their defence keep out the Partenopei and help goalkeeper Samir Handanovic keep a clean sheet in this game.

Captain Icardi recently spoke after the 4-2 victory over Fiorentina about how the team needs to learn to control matches and not give goals away at the back. He also added how he doesn't know what's "gone wrong" with the club this season and that "individually", they have the best players in the league, but they need to learn how to play and work "as a team".

Inter's physicality could be key in this encounter

Inter's players are much more physical and well equipped defensively for this fixture and if the right service is provided to Icardi, you can be sure that the Argentinian will not disappoint when presented with a chance to score.

Predicted line-ups

Inter have no significant injuries to worry about for this game and should be able to cope with the absences of Gary Medel, Rodrigo Palacio and Davide Santon with their current options and should play with the same line-up that went up against Fiorentina.

Napoli have no injury concerns going into the game, Arkadiusz Milik is still out with his long-term injury until early February.

Inter Milan predicted XI: Handanovic, D'Ambrosio, Ranocchia, Miranda, Ansaldi, Brozovic, Kondogbia, Candreva, Banega, Perisic,Icardi.

Napoli predicted XI: Reina, Hysaj, Raul Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam, Allan, Jorginho, Hamsik, Insigne, Gabbiadini, Callejon