One point is all that separates Inter and Napoli heading into Saturday’s top-of-the-table tie at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona as Serie A continues to boast the hottest title race in Europe.
The Partenopei are boosted by the return of key players – namely recently-crowned king of Africa Kalidou Koulibaly – following the conclusion of the Africa Cup of Nations in which Senegal emerged victorious, and will be looking to add to three wins gained from their last three Serie A outings.
Defending champions Inter are likely to be fired up for the match after their last Serie A game ended in a 2-1 defeat to rivals AC Milan, despite having led with relative ease for a large part of the tie. The hunt for the title, itself, is intriguing with Italy having the most closely fought league in Europe, again.
Not only Inter and Napoli, but the top three teams – Milan included – are parted by just a point going into the next round of fixtures, with Juventus seven behind the Rossoneri in third, yet boosted by the arrival of Dusan Vlahovic for sure.
In comparison, the Premier League’s top three are separated by 10 points, La Liga’s by 13, while teams at the top of the Bundesliga and Ligue 1 are split by 14 points from 1st to 3rd, thus making Serie A the tightest around.
The Africans are back
The AFCON ended with Senegal’s penalty shootout win over Egypt, last Sunday, meaning that Napoli’s month-long wait for the return of Koulibaly is finally over, albeit the return of a man who is likely jaded as a result of his heroics in Cameroon.
On top of that, last Sunday also signified a return to the Serie A scoresheet for Nigerian Victor Osimhen, who missed out on the tournament due to injury. His goal – a 6th of the season – in Napoli’s 2-0 away win over Venezia couldn’t have come at a better time.
Almost two months spent on the sidelines meant that Luciano Spalletti was forced to deploy Dries Mertens as a forward or use the largely out-of-favour Andrea Petagna, but now Osimhan is back and back amongst the goals just in time for Saturday’s showdown with Inter.
The eventual winners of Serie A could be crowned so due to having plenty of goals from forwards, so Napoli will need Osimhen on form. Up until now The Partenopei have Mertens and Osimhen with seven and six Serie A goals respectively.
Juventus can now deploy the league’s Capocannoniere leader, Vlahovic, who has found the net 18 times. AC Milan have the in-form Olivier Giroud with seven and Zlatan Ibrahimovic with eight, whereas Inter strikers Lautaro Martinez and Edin Dzeko have 11 and nine goals so far, and therefore Osimhen could still have a big say in what happens for the reast of the season if he manages to hit form.