Serie A Week 33 – Monday 17 April 2022 – Juventus Stadium | Preview by Tlalane Phahla – Follow her on Twitter
Its hard to recall a more tightly contested scudetto race in the last decade than the current one. We are towards the end of match day 33, and there is still no clear winner with favourites changing every week. Three teams are going head-to-head for the title and only the current holders Inter Milan are firmly in control of their own destiny, while Milan and Napoli do not only need to win their remaining games, but also hope that Inter drop points. With the other challengers winning their games on Friday, Napoli welcome AS Roma at the Diego Armando Maradona stadium on Monday evening in a must win game for them. A defeat or draw will effectively eliminate them from the race.
The hosts are often criticized for their lack of winning mentality, always cracking under-pressure, and their 3-2 defeat to Fiorentina last week was once again a reminder why many do not believe they can win the league. While they are still in the running, they are facing yet another difficult opponent. Roma themselves are still hopeful of getting into the top 4 and are six points behind Juventus. The last time the two teams met in October, it ended in a goalless draw despite clear chances for both side. Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Luciano Spalletti was full of nothing but praise for the Giallorossi and explained how Napoli need to approach the match:
“We must be capable of imposing our game, keeping the ball and playing with quality. They’re a real threat but so are we for them. The team that manages to execute their plan best will come out on top. We weren’t able to do that against Fiorentina.
“Unfortunately we’ve had the chance to play some decisive matches at home and weren’t able to make the most of them. That’s a huge regret we have. It’s partly down to us always wanting to win even if it means taking risks.
“We must maintain our balance and deal with each stage of the game the right way. You need different strategies at different times. We must stay compact and not stretch ourselves when we attack.”
Expected XI (4-3-3): Ospina; Zanoli, Rrahmani, Koulibaly, Mario Rui; Anguissa, Lobotka, Ruiz; Politano, Osimhen, Insigne
- Piotr Zielinski has failed to score in each of his last 15 Serie A matches, his longest run without a goal since September 2020 (17 games). Roma are the team against which he has played the most matches in the Italian top flight without finding the back of the net (14).
- Victor Osimhen has been directly involved in six goals (5 goals, 1 assist) in his last three Serie A games, he is one goal away from equaling his record of goals in a single European league season (13 for Lille in 2019/20)
- Napoli and Roma have scored the most goals from set-pieces in Serie A this season, 22 for the Capitolini and 21 for Campani. Roma have found the net from the most corners (11), Napoli the most from free kicks (7).
The visitors come into this game with their tails up and brimming with confidence after their empathetic victory over Bodø/Glimt in the UEFA Conference League. They are the only Italian team still competing in Europe this season, an impressive in Jose Mourinho’s first season with the capital club. A top 4 finish and winning the Conference League would be considered a successful season for Roma and they have one of the best managers in football in Mourinho who knows how to win. However, to have any hopes of Champions League football they too must win the bulk of the remaining fixtures to stand a chance. Roma will be aware of Napoli’s vulnerability at the back as the hosts have conceded in each of their last eight Serie A games. They will have to stay on their toes against Tammy Abraham who has been Roma’s main source of goals this season, while Nicolo Zaniolo’s confidence is also sky high after bagging a hattrick midweek. Mourinho’s pragmatic style is often frowned upon, but no one can argue it works for them and their ability to pick up points when they are not playing well is what has kept them going all season.
Expected XI (3-5-2): ;
- Only Inter and Milan (14) have collected more clean sheets in Serie A this season than Napoli and Roma (both 13). But Gli Azzurri have conceded in each of their last eight league games, while the Giallorossi have kept a clean sheet in six of their last 11 Serie A matches.
- Tammy Abraham (9) and Victor Osimhen (7) are the two foreign strikers to have scored the most Serie A goals in 2022. Abraham has scored more goals than any other English player in Europe’s big five leagues this season (15), while the only Nigerian to score as many goals as Osimhen (12) is Union Berlin’s Taiwo Awoniyi.
- Napoli and Roma are the two of the four teams to have collected more points in the second half of the Serie A season. 27 for Napoli and 25 for Roma.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo was back in the gym while Andrea Petanga took part in the full group session in preparation for the game but Spalletti has already ruled out Di Lorenzo, saying he may be available in the next game: “We’ll see who starts tomorrow but everyone has their own ideas. [Giovanni] Di Lorenzo won’t make this game as he’s still recovering. He’ll be ready for the next one, though. Petagna is looking good and could make the squad. Fabian [Ruiz] has a minor groin problem but he’s ok and available.”
Leonardo Spinazzola is the only long-term absentee for Roma.