Palermo v Napoli Preview: Gli Azzurri head to Seria A strugglers as they look to make up ground on Juventus

Following Juventus' tight 1-0 win over Sassuolo on Friday night, second place Napoli find themselves six points behind in the title race.

Palermo v Napoli Preview: Gli Azzurri head to Seria A strugglers as they look to make up ground on Juventus
Gonzalo Higuain has been in sensational form for the club from Naples this term (Source: Boston Herald)

SSC Napoli head to Serie A strugglers Palermo on Sunday night as they look to claw back runaway leaders Juventus in the title race.   Having once led the way, the  Gli Azzurri find themselves six points off the pace as they look to win their first title since 1990.  

Hope beginning to fade for the proud Naples club

For a while it looked like SSC Napoli were on the verge of something special as they sought to replicate the halcyon days of the 1980s.  Led by their Argentinian talisman Gonzalo Higuain, who seemed to have been possessed by the spirit of Diego Maradona, they looked on course to capture their first Serie A title in over twenty years.  However, that was until the ageless Old Lady swept past them in style, winning a tight battle between the two, and  reclaiming top spot in Italy. 

The Juventus players celebrate following their vital win over Napoli (Source: The Guardian)
The Juventus players celebrate following their vital win over Napoli (Source: The Guardian)

In a blur, Napoli went from league front runners and Europa League hopefuls, to staring down the barrel at an ultimately disappointing season.  

However, all is not lost, and last weekend's encouraging win against Chievo ensured that they remain in the title race for now at least. In that game, Higuain scored his 28th goal of the season and his tenth in eight games.  

Palermo desperate to remain in Serie A 

But what of the hosts Palermo? The Sicilians, playing in their second Serie A season following their promotion from Serie B in 2014, have endured an awful few months and find themselves vying just to survive relegation.  Currently one place above the relegation zone, they could find themselves in it if Frosinone can get a result against fellow strugglers Carpi.   Having only won twice since the turn of the year, which has included heavy defeats to Genoa and Roma, they remain without a win since January.  In the same time, they have had three managers. 

New Palermo manager, Walter Novellino has his work cutout if he is to steady a sinking ship (Source: Sempreinter)
New Palermo manager, Walter Novellino has his work cutout if he is to steady a sinking ship (Source: Sempreinter)

With the appointment of Walter Novellino on the 10th of March, he became their seventh manager in a wirlwind season with the club rudderless from top-to-bottom.  The former manager of Napoli, his last job was Serie B side Modena.  

Previous meeting 

In the last fixture between the two clubs, Napoli cruised to a 2-0 victory with goals from Higuain and Dries Mertens brushing Palermo aside.  However, in the last fixture in Sicily, Palermo ran out 3-1 winners and will be hoping for an equally precious result from Sunday evening. 

Key players

For Napoli, there of course can only be one man. Gonzalo Higuain's goals have been vital to the title challenge of Napoli, scoring more goals than the Lorenzo Insigne, Jose Callejon, Marek Hamsik and Allan combined; 26 for Higuain to the 23 for those closest behind.  

Palermo's key man remains world cup winner Alberto Gilardino, the 33 year old with seven goals this season.  However, he last scored a winning goal back in December in a 4-1 win over Frosinone, a period in which Palermo have only won twice.