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Apr 18, 2021 at 7.45pm UK
Inter MilanInter Milan
Handanovic (36' og.)
Koulibaly (38'), Demme (80'), Politano (87'), Mertens (88'), Manolas (90+4')
FT(HT: 1-0)
Eriksen (55')
Darmian (63'), Hakimi (90+5')

Preview: Napoli vs. Inter Milan - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Napoli vs. Inter Milan - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Sunday's Serie A clash between Napoli and Inter Milan, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Sunday evening's traditional curtain-closer to the Serie A weekend pits together champions-elect Inter Milan and Champions League-chasing Napoli at Stadio Diego Maradona, with both sides in peak form.

The hosts come into the game with five wins from their last six, while Antonio Conte's unstoppable visitors have put together an 11-match winning streak in the league, stretching back to January.

Match preview

After Inter saw off latest victims Cagliari last Sunday - re-establishing their Serie A lead at 11 points - a first league title since the 2009-10 season came closer into sight.

A tale of two wing-backs finally broke the deadlock against the Sardinian strugglers at San Siro, as Matteo Darmian tapped home the irrepressible Achraf Hakimi's cross with 14 minutes remaining - much to the obvious delight of his manager, who joined a huge pile-up of celebrating players on the pitch.

Antonio Conte's side now require a maximum of 16 points from their eight remaining games to secure the Scudetto and have averaged well above that two-points-per-game ratio in the latter part of the campaign.

With their quest to end the long reign of bitter rivals Juventus surely set to reach fruition, the Nerazzurri can now target their remarkable record of 17 straight top-flight wins, set back in 2007, to end a spectacular campaign in style.

Though they will face an in-form Napoli team this weekend, Inter have won each of their three Serie A games against the Partenopei under Conte, including a victory in their last league game in Naples - bringing a long winless streak of 13 games in the southern city to a close.

When the teams met in Milan earlier this season, Inter eked out a narrow win thanks to a penalty converted by top scorer Romelu Lukaku, as the Neapolitan side finished with ten men after Lorenzo Insigne's second-half dismissal. With either side still fiercely motivated to achieve their objectives in the final stages of the season, the champions-in-waiting can expect a similarly tenacious battle on this occasion.

Having overcome a sticky spell where both his future - still far from assured - and his team's performances were routinely called into question, Gennaro Gattuso has steered Napoli to within touching distance of the top four since exiting the Europa League in February.

The former AC Milan standard-bearer now meets old rivals Inter, with both teams featuring in the top three of the 'most metres run' category in Serie A this season. Again, Inter (34) and Napoli (31) top the charts for the most goals registered in the last 30 minutes of play - another measure of the commitment engendered by both management teams.

However, Gattuso's lowest points-per-game average as a manager has come against the Nerazzurri (just 0.17) and former national team colleague Conte is one of two managers - along with his potential post-season replacement Max Allegri - against whom the fiery Calabrian has lost on every occasion.

To break that spell, his current Napoli side must continue a strong vein of form at both ends of the pitch, in which they have kept clean sheets in three of their last five games and prolonged a record of having scored at least once in each game this year.

Scoring late on in the Azzurri's 2-0 win over Sampdoria last week, expensively-acquired striker Victor Osimhen continued repaying his substantial transfer fee, as the Nigeria international has netted regularly in the last month after finally overcoming a string of injuries and illness.

Long-serving Belgian forward Dries Mertens has also bagged three goals and assisted once in the last four rounds, taking the pressure off top-scoring skipper Lorenzo Insigne in the final third and now potentially posing Inter's teak-tough back line some difficult questions on Sunday.

Napoli Serie A form:
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • W

Inter Milan Serie A form:
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

Team News

Napoli have confirmed that goalkeeper David Ospina sustained a bicep strain in the defeat of Sampdoria last weekend, with the 32-year-old stopper now possibly out of action until the end of the month, so Alex Meret will deputise as the home side's last line of defence.

Fellow injury concern Piotr Zielinski rejoined full training on Thursday though, following fears that the Poland international's muscle injury would rule him out, and should start in the three-man support unit behind in-form striker Victor Osimhen.

Shortly after his long-awaited return from injury, Mexican winger Hirving Lozano is unavailable for selection, as he serves a suspension for yellow card accumulation, with Matteo Politano therefore set to continue on the right.

Fabian Ruiz and Diego Demme are expected to form Gennaro Gattuso's central midfield pairing, as Tiemoue Bakayoko is again destined to be sidelined amid speculation that his loan stay in Naples may not be extended.

Inter travel south without serious injury concerns, as only back-up defender Aleksandr Kolarov is expected to miss out with a muscular issue.

After slipping down the pecking order and then undergoing meniscus surgery, Arturo Vidal was absent versus Cagliari despite making the bench previously and should feature among the substitutes this time out.

Meanwhile, six-goal wing-back Achraf Hakimi is poised to return to the first team on Sunday, with Ashley Young most vulnerable to the chop, as last week's matchwinner Matteo Darmian continues on the opposite flank.

Following a rare rest, Lautaro Martinez will be back in the starting XI at the expense of Alexis Sanchez; reprising his stellar partnership with Romelu Lukaku up front.

Napoli possible starting lineup:
Meret; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Koulibaly, Rui; Demme, Ruiz; Politano, Zielinski, Insigne; Osimhen

Inter Milan possible starting lineup:
Handanovic; Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni; Hakimi, Barella, Brozovic, Eriksen, Darmian; Martinez, Lukaku

We say: Napoli 1-1 Inter Milan

Though the league leaders have rattled off 11 straight successes in Serie A - and could set a new top-flight record if they continue that run until the end of the season - Napoli have proved a tough nut to crack in recent weeks.

As the Azzurri have not been beaten on home turf for three months, they can use an impressive array of attacking options to dominate possession. Inter, though, care little about keeping the ball and are ruthless on the counter, so will surely strike back in kind.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a double chance bet on a home win or an away win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home/Away:data

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