In the wake of their eagerly anticipated title celebration earlier this week, Napoli will return to Stadio Maradona on Sunday to host Fiorentina.
Luciano Spalletti’s team eventually returned the Scudetto to Naples after 33 years of suffering when they managed a draw with Udinese. In the meantime, the Viola are in their finest form of the season and have a European semi-final to look forward to.
Napoli returns home for their first game as the new Italian champions after winning their third Serie A (SA) title. After 33 years, the second longest gap between two SA title was broken in Udine, when they earned a key point in a 1-1 draw. Curiously, Diego Armando Maradona’s first “Hand of God” goal was also scored in that city, making it a legendary club history.
The Argentine legend’s stadium is now Napoli’s home ground, and the squad will be eager to properly commemorate its first Scudetto since Roma’s triumph in 2001. After some late night player celebrations, notably Matteo Politano who partied with fans until the wee hours of Friday morning, their coach Luciano Spalletti, who won his first title at the age of 64, will probably change the lineup for this game.
Fiorentina will be attempting to capitalize on Napoli’s joyful atmosphere at this time. However, Vincenzo Italiano’s team will likely put more of their attention into next week’s UEFA Europa Conference League semifinal against Basel and the Coppa Italia final against Inter as another route to Europe now that their recent 3-3 draw with Salernitana has all but ended their hopes of finishing in the top seven with European qualification.
It was the fourth of Fiorentina’s last five games (W1, D2, L2) in which at least five goals were scored, and Italiano applauded the “enthusiasm and confidence” of his players. While the Fiorentina manager may be frustrated that his defense has allowed goals in four of their previous five Serie A games, he praised his players’ “never give up” attitude, which he believes will help them in their upcoming continental playoff. There have been at least four goals scored in each of the last three head to head matches played at this venue, with the visitors taking the last two. Recent goal fests may continue here.
In this game against his previous team, for whom he scored three goals in his career, the “eternal sub” Giovanni Simeone might get the start. Last season, Nicolás González (five league goals) scored and provided an assist in Fiorentina’s unexpected 3-2 win against Napoli. His last two of his final three SA goals were scored in the 49th minute.
As Napoli looks to celebrate in style, Luciano Spalletti, who has won the Scudetto and is now the oldest coach to ever win Serie A, is unlikely to make many changes.
Due to Mario Rui’s continued absence due to an injury incurred during the hosts’ Champions League elimination against Milan, Mathias Olivera has continued to fill in at left back.
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia has not scored or assisted since the beginning of April, clearly a step down from his brilliant recent best, but he should still start on Sunday to the left of star striker Victor Osimhen. The Nigerian tied George Weah for the most African goals in Serie A history with his title winning goal at Udine, and he would surpass the Liberian leader with a 47th goal.
Fiorentina’s trip to Naples will only be missed by suspended center back Lucas Martinez Quarta and injured goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu, thus a number of players may be rotated.
For their matchup with Basel in the first leg, Vincenzo Italiano will want to rest his important players, and Nikola Milenkovic is expected to take the place of Martinez Quarta in defense.
Giacomo Bonaventura, Luka Jovic, and other players on the bench are vying for promotions. The latter has scored five league goals against Napoli thus far, but none since 2019.
Napoli possible starting lineup
Meret, Di Lorenzo, Kim, Rrahmani, Olivera, Anguissa, Lobotka, Zielinski, Lozano, Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia.
Fiorentina possible starting lineup
Terracciano, Dodo, Milenkovic, Igor, Terzic, Amrabat, Mandragora, Kouame, Barak, Saponara and Jovic.
We predict: Napoli 1-1 Fiorentina
Despite the recent happy release, Fiorentina may have other things on their brain while Napoli have been off the boil for a long. A low-scoring draw can result if all the activity takes place in the Stadio Maradona stands rather than on the playing field.