All StoriesAtalantaMatch PreviewsNapoli

Napoli v Atalanta Match Preview, Scouting, and Prediction

Napoli will be out to prove that the faux pas against Lazio was just a blip, while Atalanta will attempt to bounce back after a rough stretch in the most anticipated match of this round.

  Serie A Week 26 – Saturday 11 March 2023 – Stadio Diego Armando Maradona | Preview by Enrico Passarella



For just the second time in the campaign, Napoli will have to demonstrate that a loss was just a fluke and not the start of a skid, which would even be physiological considering how consistent and tremendous they have been so far. It’s not great that it happened again versus a big team, but it was less worrying than the one against Inter, where they were lackadaisical and overmatched after the winter break. Instead, they were their usual selves in the Lazio clash; they simply failed to score and conceded on a jaw-dropping shot by an opponent.

Maurizio Sarri jammed them up by tightly guarding Stanislav Lobotka and going with a more muscular midfielder than usual, but his strategy is unlikely to become a blueprint for how to stop them. Many other sides had already tried the same, but very few can lean of the same defensive solidity of the Biancocelesti, which lead Serie A in clean sheets. The recent string of shot-out victories had further fueled expectations for the Partenopei to the point that anything less than perfection is surprising, but they are human after all. Plus, it’s not as if they have crushed adversaries all season long. They often came out on top by being patient and striking late.

The previous defeat against Inter didn’t dent their self-confidence, and they ripped off an eight-game winning streak afterward. That probably won’t be the case again, as the schedule coming up is pretty demanding; plus, they should definitely spare some energy to go as far as possible in the Champions League.

The one thing that could affect them is the angst of wrapping up the Scudetto race in a hurry and thus seeing any misstep as a catastrophe. They need to refrain from that at all costs and just look at the big picture. They have a 15-point lead with 13 matches to go, plus the suitors have way more problems than them, so they are in an enviable position. They are helped by the fact that they have so many foreigners relatively new to Serie A that don’t fully realize how massive of a deal winning the title would be for the team and the city, which lightens the mental burden.

The lead they built in the first leg versus Eintracht Frankfurt, plus the fact that they will face a worthy yet slumping outfit, should limit the rotation to perhaps one or two pieces. The fact that they have had almost impeccable health throughout the season is one of the hidden secrets behind their success. If they take care of business in the return leg, as likely, it’ll be intriguing to see how they measure up against the finest clubs in Europe. They already trounced Liverpool in the group stage, but they dropped the second game, which wasn’t all that meaningful, and the Reds haven’t been exactly elite this year. While that’s the natural consequence once somebody dominates its league, it wouldn’t be fair to set the bar at winning the big-eared cup, considering the economic gap with the top contenders and the fact that this squad hasn’t been together for that long. Making it to the semifinals would already be a satisfying outcome.

Luciano Spalletti rarely changes a lot, also because they have just two or three backups that are at the same level as the starters, and they are pretty young overall. Rather than resting too many players from the get-go, a more advisable strategy is to come out guns blazing and look to wrap things ups in about an hour and then subs some cornerstones off. It’s not inconceivable considering Atalanta’s recent woes. They will predictably be extremely fierce from the start to attempt to amend the previous defeat, but they’ll have to be careful not to attack en masse and expose themselves, as La Dea is one of the best counter-attacking sides around. They’ll be fine if they manage to wrangle their emotions at both ends of the spectrum and just stick to their usual game plan.

Hirving Lozano is questionable due to a minor muscular problem, so either Matteo Politano or Elijf Elmas will play as right winger. It’s not a massive loss, but he’s in terrific form and had clearly started to separate himself from his competitor for the role. His absence also takes away a nice change-of-pace option off the bench.

Expected XI (4-3-3):  Meret; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Kim, Olivera; Anguissa, Lobotka, Zielinski; Politano, Osimhen, Kvaratshkhelia. 

Doubts: Rrahmani/Jesus, Anguissa/Ndombélé, Zielinski/Elmas.

Injury Report: Rui (suspension); Lozano (thigh injury) – Questionable; Raspadori (thigh strain) – Doubtful. 


Napoli v Atalanta


Atalanta have been on a steady decline for about a month, but the win over Lazio threw everybody off their scent and avoided a full-fledged crisis. They have lost three times in the past five rounds, drawing with Udinese in the remaining one. The Sassuolo defeat was fluky, but Lecce and Milan outclassed them. They showed some signs of life against the Friulani, but they were far from the dominant January form.

The main problem has been that the attack, which has always been the main driving force throughout the years, has stopped producing, as they have bagged just one goal in the past three rounds. The strikers obviously aren’t the only ones at fault, but they have left something on the table too. Ademola Lookman, who carried them in the first portion of the season, has fallen into a slump and become a little sloppy and predictable. Rasmus Hojlund has been in better form lately, but as the center-forward of a sputtering offense, the feeds aren’t there when the rest of the team doesn’t work properly. He doesn’t need a lot to do damage, and he has been fantastic after the World Cup break. He has star potential, and if he stays here, his development will be fascinating to watch in the next couple of seasons.

Since when it rains, it pours, the injury bug has started to bite them. Teun Koopmeiners is an incredibly painful loss because they don’t have another pure distributor in the midfield. Marten De Roon is adept at those tasks, but his main job is to provide balance and recover the ball. Ederson and Mario Pasalic have different characteristics. They might both be in the lineup to bolster the midfield, hoping a pair could better offset the loss of the Dutch maestro than just one piece. In addition, Gian Piero Gasperini has been hot and cold on Jeremie Boga, even though his previous performances should have been enough to look past his usual inconsistency.

Davide Zappacosta has had a hellish season from such standpoint, and the constant stop-and-go hasn’t allowed him to fully get into shape for a few matches in a row. Hans Hateboer is done for the season with an ACL tear. Brandon Soppy hasn’t regained the trust of the gaffer, so their flank game, which used to be a vaunted weapon, is very vanilla nowadays. Joakim Maehle and Matteo Ruggeri are solid but not difference-makers. The Udinese talent was a nice start to rebuild their corps, even though his trajectory has been less than ideal, but they should have definitely found a left-footed beast to replace Robin Gosens by now.

Furthermore, they have experience, and their central defenders have been together for a while, but they have had constant turmoil there too and haven’t been able to lean on the same back-three for many consecutive matches, which hinders the mechanisms, especially in a side that interprets it very aggressively. José Luis Palomino and Giorgio Scalvini will be late calls after minor injuries. The prodigy might sneak into the XI if in good enough shape.

They have gone from arguably the most fearsome and in-form Champions League contender to afterthoughts in the span of a month. There’s actually a better chance Juventus catch them in the standings despite the point deduction than they make up ground and finish ahead of two among Lazio, Milan, and Roma. The attitude of their coach hasn’t helped either, as he tempers expectations and pretty much smears the squad and their early results in each presser. Even those there might be a dose of reality in it, it’s unclear why he does it so frequently. It might be an overly calculated strategy that ended up backfiring. He has been borderline defeatist as of late, which could easily permeate the squad and influence their mentality. They are clear underdogs in this one, and it’ll be interesting to see whether he’ll come up with something out of the ordinary to really push Napoli or if they’ll just go about their business as usual and simply try not to lose big.

Expected XI (3-4-1-2):  Musso; Toloi, Demiral, Djimsiti; Maehle, De Roon, Ederson, Ruggeri; Pasalic; Hojlund, Lookman. 

Doubts: Demiral/Scalvini, Ruggeri/Soppy, Pasalic/Boga. 

Injury Report: Koopmeiners (thigh strain) – OUT; Hateboer (ACL tear) – OUT; Scalvini (ankle sprain), Palomino (thigh injury), Zapata (thigh strain) – Probable; Zappcosta (thigh strain) – Questionable. 


Napoli Win – Under 2.5 Goals

27 posts

About author
Contributor for @footitalia1 | Serie A | News, Transfers, Betting |
Related posts
All StoriesAzzurri

Retegui's Father: 'Many European clubs have been looking for him'

Forward Mateo Retegui has been selected in Roberto Mancini’s national squad for the first time in his…
All StoriesAzzurri

Gnonto: 'I will always be grateful to Inter but I don't see it as a missed opportunity'

Leeds United winger Willy Gnonto has been in good form in the Premier League so far this…
All StoriesJuventus

Rabiot: 'There is the possibility of leaving'

Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot is having a fine season with the Bianconeri this term but there is…