by Zack Lambert (@bigbird8224)
December 15th, 2020
S.S.C. Napoli at Internazionale Milano
Spread: Inter (0, -0.5); O/U: 2.5
Moneyline: Napoli +215, Inter +125, Draw +255
Time/Location: 2:45 ET, San Siro, Milan, Italy
Napoli (WDWDW); 3rd
Napoli have been overlooked by some football fans this season because of their lack of presence in the Champions League. That’s a mistake. The Neapolitan club did miss out on Champions League football but they’re far from not being qualified. Their 2019/20 season was derailed by injuries and players underperforming but this season those issues are no more. The club are scoring and defending at some of the highest rates in Italy and it landed them in the third place spot, trailing only the Milan clubs. A victory here would vault them into second so the motivation is here for this match.
Gennaro Gattuso is blessed with a full squad of versatile players who allow him to game plan for opponents, a luxury many clubs are not afforded outside of their intents. Gattuso can shift players around the pitch and tinker with formations to find the perfect fits for each team. The back line is anchored by one of the best center backs in the world, Kalidou Koulibaly; the Senegalese was injured last season but returns in a form that terrifies opposing attackers. The front four or Insigne and Lozano on the wings with Osimhen at striker and Mertens as a 10 produces goals without fail. The midfield anchored by Ruiz and Zielinski provides a makeshift conduit that forms to fill any role needed. The bench is flush with talent for any scenario. Napoli can rival the depth of Juventus and creativity of AC Milan and that’s nothing to take lightly from a title contender.
Inter (WWWDW); 2nd
Inter were my favorites to win Serie A before the season and the start they got off to made me clutch my pearls, but things are beginning to level back out, at least domestically. Inter have crashed out of Europe in spectacular fashion with Real Madrid, Gladbach, and Shakhtar all finishing above the Nerazzurri in their Champions League group. I felt that it might coust Antonio Conte his job for the failure, and though it still might, it hasn’t yet. Though while it’s not a justification, the club will be able to devote all of their time domestically on titles they have a chance of winning instead of on the Champions League, an endeavor that would have been fruitless outside of funding. The club have worked back up to second place in Serie A and though they’re still a point behind AC, there’s plenty of time to hunt down their rivals.
Inter have played excellent attacking football as well this season though their defense is underperforming yet again. Romelo Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez are two of the top strikers in world football right now and both score at a high rate. Alexis is making something of a comeback as well, providing a very nice piece of depth. The midfield is run by a combination of players, but all who occupy the space, be it Gagliardini, Barella, Vidal, or Brozović, play it very well. Achraf Hakimi is doing a very good job in his position on the right flank, too, assisting the attack with goals and chance creation, a specialty that Inter lacks centrally. But the defense continues to perplex me. Conte prefers a back three and that strategy works all over the world, but the players Inter has aren’t doing as well as they ought to. Stefan de Vrij has dropped out of his consistency which was a huge strength for him last season. Milan Škriniar has come nowhere close to his expectations to be one of the top defenders in the world. Bastoni and Ranocchia are doing okay but Samir Handanović is a liability in goal at times. If this line simply played to their regular abilities they might become one of the absolute best sides in the world based on their talent, but the defending must be ironed out.
Analysis and Pick
This is one of the biggest football matches of the week, probably second to just Spurs and Liverpool, so the players are going to be hyped up for the fixture. Before we get too deep there will be some missing players. Napoli will miss Osimhen and Elseid Hysaj but neither should affect them too much. Mertens will probably play as the striker in place of the young Nigerian. Inter will miss Hakimi and Vidal, both big blows to the middle and attacking thirds. Those absences will take away a bit of excitement but the atmosphere for the players will still be good based on the circumstances. I expect the possession to be shared between the clubs and a lot of shots to be taken on the older keepers, making them move and make saves time and time again. While Inter seems like the more talented team I’m not a fan of their form and their mental state is probably down while Napoli look great and have done very well in the Europa League lately. Take a loaded Napoli team to cover the spread tomorrow.