Inter vs Napoli: Nerazzurri European dreams at stake

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Inter will be desperate to keep their European dreams alive as they welcome Napoli to the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on Sunday evening.

The Nerazzurri once were viewed as serious contenders to qualify for the Champions League, but that ship has long sailed. Inter have now turned their attention to securing a spot in the Europa League, but even that is now slipping from their grasp. Stefano Pioli’s men have not won a Serie A fixture since crushing Atalanta 7-1 on March 12th.

Since then, they have picked up just two points from their last five games. Along the way, they suffered a shock 2-1 loss to debutants Crotone, and were on the wrong end of a nine goal thriller against Fiorentina. That has seen them slide down into seventh spot, and the Viola are just behind them as they try to stage their own late rally to try to grab a Europa League berth.

Predictably, Pioli’s position with the club is now up in the air. As punishment for the capitulation against Fiorentina, the team was reportedly forced to stay in ritiro for the week leading up to this fixture. It remains to see whether the isolation will actually pay off, but one thing is certain: Napoli will be a very tough opponent for Inter, especially considering their leaky defense. The Partenopei are currently the highest-scoring side in Serie A. Maurizio Sarri comes to Milan with a full-strength squad, and Dries Mertens, a midfielder, has been scoring at an impressive rate. Arkadiusz Milik, who was bought to replace Gonzalo Higuain, started off very well before suffering an injury. The Polish international, who netted to salvage a draw for Napoli, is back in the team, but is expected to come on as an impact sub.

Napoli are unbeaten in their last 10 away fixtures, and boast one of the strongest traveling records in the league. Naturally, for a team who has fired in 77 goals (over two per game), netting on the road is no problem for them, as they have scored at least 2 goals per match in their last ten trips.

Inter, meanwhile, also come into this game with everyone available. The Nerazzurri have only won one out of their last eight Serie A meetings with Napoli, but interestingly enough, at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza they have fared much better. In fact, Inter have lost just one out of their last 13 home games against Napoli, whilst winning ten of those. They have also scored (at least two goals) in eight out of their last 10 meetings with Napoli across all competitions at their home ground.

But they have also conceded at least two goals per match during their five game winless streak. That includes two against teams like Crotone, another two versus AC Milan in the derby, and the five they shipped against Fiorentina. Worryingly for Inter, during the Fiorentina clash, they were 2-1 up, and then managed to concede three in less than ten minutes to fall 5-1 behind. Against Milan, they were also 2-0 to the good, but allowed the Rossoneri to net two late goals to drop two points.

That doesn’t bode well for Inter, but Napoli have had their share of defensive woes as well. Clean sheets are hard to come by for the Partenopei, who despite playing some beautiful football, still have issues at the back they need to sort out. From a neutral perspective, this will be a game definitely not to miss, as plenty of goals appear to be on the cards. Napoli will be hoping to continue pushing for second, whilst Inter aim to revive their European dreams. Who will come out on top?

Michelle Bonsu

Freelance football journalist based in New York. Primarily support AC Milan as well as the Ghanaian and Italian NT’s, but you’ll find me watching the Bundesliga and Premier League as well–enjoy a good game, regardless of where it’s being played. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of my favourite players.