Inter - Napoli Preview: No Higuain to lead the line against Champions League chasers

The Partenopei will be without their main man in a top-four Serie A clash this weekend.

Inter - Napoli Preview: No Higuain to lead the line against Champions League chasers
(Photo: Getty Images)

Second-place Napoli will face Inter Milan without ineligable talisman Gonzalo Higuain. The Serie A's top goal-scorer will serve his second match of a four-game suspension this Saturday. The extended ban came after the Argentine recieved a red card against Udinese, and showed his frustration in actions after the sending off. 

Meanwhile, Internazionale will hoping to take advantage and keep A.S. Roma under pressure for the third and final Champions League qualification spot, who are currently six points ahead. 

Higuain's ban has been appealed, and Napoli will be hoping that he'll be eligible to face Roma on the 25th April. Earlier in the season, it was the 28-year-old's two goals which earned Napoli the win in the reverse fixture against Inter.

Gonzalo Higuain has scored 30 goals in 31 league games, but is inelidgable agaisnt Inter (Photo: Diari Catala)

The Partenopei are unbeaten in their last six Serie A games against Inter. However you could say that the Nerazzurri got their revenge. They returned to the San Paolo in January and defeated Napoli 2-1 in the Coppa Italia quarter-final.

Statistics

Inter go into the match with decent form, picking up 13 points from their last five matches. They've averaged two points per home fixture this season (32 points), but have only scored 22 goals in 16 home games.

Mauro Icardi has scored a vast amount of their league goals, with 14 to his name. The Inter captain is in the clear as the Nerazzurri's top goal-scorer, with Ivan Perisic behind him with six goals. 

Mauro Icardi has followed in the steps of fellow Argentine's Esteban Cambiasso and Javier Zanetti as Inter captain (Photo: FourFourTwo)

Napoli bounced back to winning ways with a 3-0 victory against Hellas Verona last weekend. They previously lost 3-1 to Udinese away from home, which was their first league defeat since they faced Juventus in February.

Maurizio Sarri's men may have the most home points out of any Serie A team, but their away record has arguably lost them the Scudetto this season - dropping 20 points away from the San Paolo alone.

Key Quotes

Nerazzurri's Danilo D'Ambrosio told Gazetta dello Sport that he believes that it's "a very important game for both teams." Napoli "still want the top spot", but Inter "aim for Champions League" qualification. The Neapolitan-born full-back says that he will "put aside all emotion", when the referee blows for the start of the match.

As Napoli manager Sarri returns to the touchline after a one-match ban, his opposite number Roberto Mancini told the Inter Channel that he "will shake his hand." It will be the first encounter between the two since the Coppa Italia quarter-final, where Sarri aimed a homophobic slur towards the former Manchester City boss. 

However, Sarri explained that he intended "to call him a 'poser', due to the way he dresses so "elegantly on the side of the pitch, as if he's going to an official function".

Key Players

Adem Ljajic scored in both fixtures against Napoli this season, but the Serbian is fighting for his Inter future. And Mancini has publicly critisised him, saying that he was like Ljajic "at 16, not at 25 [years-old]." The Inter manager believes that Ljajic has great qualities, but it "would be a huge loss to football" if he throws them away.

Calciomercato reported that Inter are unlikely to sign Ljajic permanetly this summer, and will return to Roma when his loan deal expires. 

Marcelo Brozovic has impressed in his first season with the Nerazzurri, and the on-loan Croatian has been linked strongly with Premier League team Arsenal.

The midfielder has been linked with clubs such as Arsenal, Chelsea and Barcelona (Photo: Gazzetta World)

It's very likely that Manolo Gabbiadini will start in place of Higuain, after scoring aginst Verona last weekend. The Italian has only made two starts in the Serie this season, but has come off the bench 17 times for the Partenopei. 

Pepe Reina made a match-winning,  last minute save to deny Inter in their previous Serie A encounter. The Spaniard has been a consistent figure in goal for Napoli and will surely be tested at the San Siro.

Pepe Reina returned to Napoli at the start of the season, after a brief spell at Bayern Munich (Photo: Corriere dello Sport)

Possible Inter Line-up: Handanovic; D'Ambrosio, Miranda, Murillo, Nagatomo; Medel, Brozovic; Biabiany, Jovetic, Perisic; Icardi.

Possible Napoli Line-up: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Jorginho, Allan, Hamsik; Callejon, Gabbiadini, Insigne.