Napoli v Bologna Match Preview, scouting and predictions


Napoli are on the ropes also as in the race to qualify for the Europa League, while Bologna necessitate a final push to secure a top-five finish without sweating it out too much.

  Serie A Week 35 – Saturday 11 May  2024 – Allianz Stadium | Preview by Enrico Passarella


The last few matches have been like Groundhog Day for Napoli. Their performances have been somewhat decent, and they have looked a lot more organized than under Walter Mazzarri and Rudi Garcia. Their offense is an okay spot thanks to Victor Osimhen being at his best and his cohort feeding him frequently. Matteo Politano and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia have been more hit-or-miss but are doing their part more often than not. Yet, their defense can’t stop giving up cheap goals, especially late.

Considering their history, repeating the Scudetto was always going to be a longshot, even more so after losing two of its architects, Luciano Spalletti and Cristiano Giuntoli, who perhaps smelled what was in the air or were simply forward-looking, and Kim Min-Jae, who turned out to be even more pivotal after seeing his replacement. Still, there are ways and ways to have a title defense, and theirs was awful.

It’s understandable since they’ll have massive calls to make soon, but shifting the focus from the games to the future so early was detrimental. The other continental competitions aren’t as alluring as the Champions League, but a trophy is a trophy. They are the easiest pathway for Serie A teams to European glory. Instead, it felt like their brass didn’t care about where they finished once it became clear they would really compete for a top-five berth.

The sale of Osimhen will offset the losses for one year, but they’ll need a quick bounce-back, or they’ll be in a hole they’ll struggle to dig out given the new and richer Champions League format. The Nigerian striker is great, but we’ll see whether the offers will really get to the levels they hope for since the suitors are very aware of the situation and might twist their arms.

Napoli don’t have much going for them, but at least have clarity about what didn’t work. Unfortunately for them, it’s a lot, and they’ll also have to intervene in areas where they are fine currently, like the no.9 position, setting the stages for a tricky summer. They acted quickly by poaching a promising director. They’ll have to wish their level of attractiveness hasn’t taken too much of a hit, or they’ll need to pay a premium to lure players. That’s a big risk in a summer where they’ll need a slew of additions and at least a pair of proven studs in the back and up front.

The call about the coach comes first. Unlike other sides, wink wink Milan, all the options linked to them make some sense. After all, they don’t need to look far to upgrade, even though Francesco Calzona has been okay and perhaps still has a shot if they can’t overcome the hurdles for their targets.

From their perspective, Antonio Conte would be a great get to fast-track a rebuild. From the outside, handing out hefty wages to a coach whose tactics and style are a lot different from what they are accustomed to and might butt heads with the president pronto isn’t the best idea. They are optimistic if they think the process will be quick and not painful. Gian Piero Gasperini would be a tremendous hire, but the reservations are pretty much the same, minus the monetary aspects. You never know, but he really has no reason to leave Atalanta for a team that’s not clearly superior in its current state. Some like a challenge, but they must be properly motivated to depart an oasis.

Stefano Pioli isn’t the most exciting option, but he’s a fine manager, and he has the right character to put up with the president’s antics. Despite the smear campaign against him and the fact that he has grown stale at Milan, which happens after a few years, appointing a recent title winner would be a guarantee of their ambitions. He’s a good fit philosophically too, like Vincenzo Italiano, who’s a notch below but is ready to make the jump to a bigger team that’s not necessarily in win-now mode.

They could arguably afford to roll the dice with an up-and-comer tactical wizard, but De Laurentiis, contrary to what they usually do on the transfer market, has always played it safe on the bench. It wouldn’t be shocking if even Maurizio Sarri resurfaced as an option.

In the meantime, they need to finish the season decorously, but their motivation in chasing the qualification to a secondary European competition is a big question mark.

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

Doubts:  Celik/Kristensen, Pellegrini/Aouar, Zalewski/El Shaarawy.

Injury report: Kvaratskhelia, Dendoncker (thigh injuries), Gollini (shoulder injury) – Probable.

Raspadori (ankle sprain) – Questionable. 

Zielinski (calf strain) – OUT. 




The beautiful machine isn’t on the fritz but is glitching a little offensively considering that they haven’t scored in three of their last five matches against unformidable sides like Torino, Monza, and Frosinone. Oddly enough, they have their recent best showing against Roma, which they manhandled, while they shared the spoils with Udinese, hitting the net once in that case.

The good news is that they aren’t conceding either, so they have picked up points in all those fixtures, preventing the late-season swoon from being too damaging. They remain in a comfortable spot but they need a couple more wins to finish the job. The schedule isn’t a cakewalk, as they’ll face Juventus and Genoa after this one, but they have risen to the occasion several times against big teams. Plus, their recent results suggest that they have had more issues versus smaller teams.

The reason for that might be, at least partially, that Serie A coaches are smart and prepared. The element of surprise is no longer there and the counter-adjustments are starting to work. Their reputation precedes them now. Teams know they have to bunker up and bring the energy to avoid being steamrolled. Nobody is taking the match-up lightly or exposing themselves any longer.

Moreover, the form of some of their linchpins has dipped, starting with Joshua Zirkzee, who has scored just once in a couple of months. He does a lot more on the pitch, so his performances have stayed at a good enough level. Still, any side operates better if its center-forward is producing. Moreover, Riccardo Orsolini, their second top scorer, has, for one reason or the other, fallen into Thiago Motta’s doghouse lately, coming off the bench, or not playing at all, in multiple matches in a row. Dan Ndoye provides a lot of pace, but his touch in the box leaves a lot to be desired. Alexis Saelemaekers is in a groove and chipped in, but he can’t be asked to be a consistent scorer on top of everything else. They should turn to the men that allow them to pack the most punch.

In addition, they are still recovering from the shock of losing Lewis Ferguson and searching for the best way to replace him. On top of being a tremendous leader and one of the most intelligent players around, he put a lot of pressure on the opposing defenders with his deep cuts and presence in the box, drawing significant attention even though he wasn’t necessarily their go-to-guy when it came to finishing, opening up lanes.

Oussama El Azzouzi had a strong first showing after the captain’s injury, scoring versus Roma, but he’s a different and much more defensive-minded player. Giovanni Fabbian got the start in the most recent game, and he does have a similar nose for the goal but wasn’t trusted fully right away perhaps because his work rate isn’t where it needs to be to maintain the balance yet or simply because he’s very good off the bench. Nikola Moro and Saelemaekers himself also got minutes as a no.10, with mixed results. It’s late in the season, and they can survive by alternating. The silver lining of the ACL tear is that it’ll keep the Scot in town while he could have easily been poached by a top team. However, unless Fabbian makes a sudden leap in the final games, they’ll have to bring in a worthy substitute, as he’ll miss at least a few months in the next campaign as well.

Perhaps their gaffer was aware they’d have trouble keeping up their level of dangerousness and turned up the heat on the other hand. They have been remarkably solid for a lengthy stretch. Riccardo Calafiori gets most of the shine, but in reality, Jhon Lucumì’s return to form after an injury has heightened their level of physicality, lifting the whole rearguard.

Bologna’s first few weeks after the end of the season will be as seminal as the final matches since they’ll produce a final effort to keep Thiago Motta, or have to find hire the right substitute, and fend off the interest for several cornerstones. But the Champions League race comes first, and they’ll have to properly compartmentalize and not take their eyes off the ball.

Even though everybody got used to seeing them so high in the standings at this point, and Serie A might even get six representatives, it’d be a massive achievement considering some of the teams on the outside looking in. It’d be a pity to waste all the good work they have done so far with a lackadaisical end of the season.

Expected XI (4-1-4-1): Skorupski; Posch, Beukema, Lucumi, Kristiansen; Freuler; Ndoye, Aebischer, El Azzouzi, Saelemaekers; Zirkzee. 

Doubts:  Kristiansen/Calafiori, Ndoye/Orsolini, El Azzouzi/Fabbian. 

Injury report: Soumaoro (patellar tendon tear), Ferguson (ACL tear) – OUT. 



Draw – Over 2.5 Goals

Enrico Passarella

Contributor for @footitalia1 | Serie A | News, Transfers, Betting |