After losing to Juventus last week, Napoli have fallen off the top spot in Serie A. If the Neapolitan outfit is to maintain any hope of lifting their first Scudetto since Diego Maradona brought them to the title over 25 years ago, they need a fast return to winning ways.
First up will be a clash with a resurgent AC Milan.
After a lamentable start to the season, Milan has hit a run of form in 2016. Sinisa Mihajlovic’s team is on a nine-game undefeated streak in all competitions stretching back to the first week in January. In that time, they’ve beaten Inter 3-0, Fiorentina 2-0, and held Roma to a 1-1 draw at the Stadio Olimpico.
Milan’s recent success is partly due to the form of summer signing Carlos Bacca. The Colombian striker has netted five goals in his last six Serie A outings and has 13 league goals on the season. His form of late is a stark contrast to earlier in the season, when he netted just three goals in seven matches.
Bacca has formed an excellent on-field partnership with fellow striker, M’Baye Niang. Niang, who has five goals and four assists himself this season, has shifted into more of a secondary striker role, leaving Bacca to operate as a lone striker up top.
For Milan on Monday, however, the greatest challenge will be trying to contain Bacca’s opposite number.
Despite upsetting his goal-a-game ratio by failing to score in last week’s loss to Juve, Gonzalo Higuain remains the leading scorer in Europe and is still on track to set a new Serie A scoring record. Back home at the San Paolo on Monday, the Argentine and his comrades, Lorenzo Insigne and Jose Callejon will be primed for the attack against Milan.
Recent history heavily favors the home side with Milan having won four out of the last five meetings between the two clubs. But, with Milan’s last game having been a 2-1 win over Genoa on Valentine’s Day, the Rossoneri will take the advantage of having a full week off since their last game. Napoli, meanwhile, will have to recover quickly from an exhausting trip to Villarreal Thursday, where they lost 1-0 in the Europa League.
Napoli has still been the best team in Italy this season overall, but there’s something afoot with the Milan side at the moment. Both teams are badly in need of a result – Napoli to keep pressure on Juve in the race for the title and Milan to maintain hope of qualifying for Europe next season. It should make for an interesting encounter.