It is back to the nation’s capital of Rome for the final round of fixtures before the international break, Roma entertain Napoli in the Derby Del Sole on Sunday looking for a reaction after last weekend’s disappointing defeat to Parma.
Roma returned to winning ways on Thursday night with a magnificent performance in Kyiv against Shakhtar Donetsk. With a 3-0 lead from the first leg in Rome, Roma played out a professional performance and won the game 2-1 thanks to a double from Borja Mayoral.
As expected, Roma had to defend well without the ball as Shakhtar dominated the first half in possession but did not really create much. It was pivotal that Roma got to halftime all square on the night and they did, then Roma hit and got that crucial away goal thanks to a close-range header from Borja Mayoral.
For me that away goal settled the nerves off the pitch for us fans, the away goal was a massive setback for Luis Castro Shakhtar side as they would have to score 5. They pulled one back from Junior Moraes who done brilliantly to evade the Roma defense from a set-piece and slide home from close range. But Roma added a second and that deflated the hosts and Roma had sealed passage to the Quarter Finals of the Europa League.
Winning away in Ukraine against a brilliant footballing side who got to the semi-finals of the Europa League last season is no mean feat. Winning away from home with just 35% in the second leg is a credit to Paulo Fonseca‘s tactics, he got his set-up spot on in both legs against his former side. Roma capitalised when Shakhtar were running out of ideas. It was a masterstroke from Paulo Fonseca, and he deserves all the credit for it.
So, in the Quarter Finals of the Europa League AS Roma will take on Ajax, this was the side I did not want in the last 8. I feared Roma would get Ajax or Manchester United, sadly when Roma’s name go drawn out my heart sank a little. This is going to be a tough tie; Ajax are a young hungry side who are excellent to watch under Erik Ten Hag. The winner of this tie will take on the winners of the Manchester United/Granada Quarter Final.
Napoli are the visitors to the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday night and with the win over AC Milan last Sunday evening jumped over Roma in the Serie A Standings. Napoli are currently 5th in the Serie A standings with 50 points in 26 games, Napoli are ahead of Roma on goal difference by a whopping 16 goal swing.
Napoli go into the Derby Del Sole match brimming with confidence with 4 wins 1 draw and 1 defeat in the last 6 Serie A games. Napoli are currently unbeaten in the last 4 games picking up 10 points from 12 games. The last defeat for Napoli was the 4-2 away defeat in Bergamo against Atalanta.
The 4 wins in the last 6 games have come against Juventus at home, home to Benevento, home to Bologna, and away in Milan against AC Milan last weekend. The sole draw was the crazy 3-3 draw at Sassuolo where Napoli were denied the three points thanks to a Francesco Caputo 95th minute penalty. Napoli thought they won it moments earlier when Lorenzo Insigne scored a 90th-minute penalty.
Sunday will be Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso 50th Serie A game in charge for the club, he took over in December 2019 and his contract does run out in the summer and there is speculation on if he will stay or will the Napoli hierarchy will go in a different direction, time will tell. His record for Napoli is outstanding, 91 points from 49 games with a point-per-match record of 1.86. 29 wins, 4 draws, and 16 defeats.
Gennaro Gattuso likes to play a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 with this Napoli side, in the last few weeks he has switched to the 4-2-3-1 with excellent results. The switch of formation has got the best out of Polish international Piotr Zielinski who has found his form playing in a role higher up the pitch with 5 goals in 15 starts played as the no10.
The key players to watch out for in this Napoli side:
Lorenzo Insigne has been involved in 17 goals this season in Serie A in 23 appearances with 13 goals and 4 assists. More effective played as a left-winger this season with 12 goals in 18 appearances, Insigne is a pocket rocket of a player and on his day will cause you a lot of problems.
Lorenzo Insigne has already caused Roma problems this season. In the reverse fixture played just days after the sad death of Napoli legend Diego Maradona, Insigne put in a masterclass of a performance which tormented the Roma defense, the Napoli no 24 bagged a goal and an assist and dedicated his goal to the late El Diego. Insigne has found form in the recent 6 games with 4 goals and an assist, he will be looking to cause more problems for Roma on Sunday night.
The second and final player is Mexican winger Hirving Lozano, he has missed the last 5 games with a hamstring injury picked up in the closing moments of the 1-0 win over Juventus. He is expected to return to the squad for the Sunday game in Rome.
Lozano has been excellent for Napoli this season with 9 goals and 3 assists in 21 Serie A appearances. A second season where Lozano has hit the ground running after a difficult first season in Naples after a big-money move from PSV in the summer of 2019. Lozano is adaptive and can play in any of the three forward positions but is more effective from the right-hand side, where 7 goals and 3 assists have come from in 15 appearances.
This is going to be a tough game for Roma on Sunday night, Napoli have showed in the big games this season they are tough to beat. They will be a lot fresher after being knocked out of the Europa League they will have more focus on a top 4 spot in Serie A.
Roma will be looking to bounce back after the embarrassing defeat last week to Parma. All eyes will be on the nation’s capital this Sunday for this big clash for the race for 4th place in Serie A.
PREDICTED XI | ROMA (3-4-2-1)
Pau Lopez, Mancini, Cristante, Ibanez, Karsdorp, Diawara, Villar, Spinazzola, El Shaarawy, Pellegrini, Dzeko.
PREDICTED XI | NAPOLI (4-2-3-1)
Ospina, Hysaj, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Mario Rui, Demme, Fabian Ruiz, Politano, Zielinski, Insigne, Osimhen.