With only one Serie A (SA) defeat to their name in 2023, Empoli (W2, D5, L1) are sailing towards a third consecutive top-flight appearance as they start this round 11 points above the relegation zone. They picked up another valuable point last weekend in a 1-1 draw in a Tuscan derby against Fiorentina, which saw some heroics from their keeper Guglielmo Vicario.
He’ll be asked for another similar performance here as the runaway SA leaders Napoli come to town, but the visitors can’t take anything for granted after Empoli won their last two home H2Hs and are one of just two sides (alongside Inter) who have beaten the Partenopei at least twice in the last two SA seasons!
That history will probably be the last thing on Luciano Spalletti’s mind after his side put one foot in the Champions League quarter-final by winning 2-0 at Frankfurt on Tuesday, coupled with their convincing 15-point gap to second-placed Inter in the SA standings. Napoli’s boss was impressed with the attitude of his team and hit out at the cliché about defensive Italian football by demanding ’it’s time we get rid of it’.
One certainly can’t say Napoli are playing too defensively, as they’ve scored a league-high 56 goals so far, with 19 arriving in their last seven SA matches (W7). The visitors also reacted well to their only league defeat (vs Inter) at the beginning of January by winning each of the following five away competitive outings, with four ending exactly 2-0.
Key battle: Despite conceding four goals in three personal H2Hs, Empoli’s Vicario still boasts a positive record from his meetings with Napoli (W2, L1), including one clean sheet. Meanwhile, in-form Victor Osimhen has found the net in each of his last eight starts (G10), opening the scoring four times.
Hot stat: Napoli have scored a league-high 13 goals beyond the 75th minute, whilst Empoli have conceded a joint-second league high ten in the same period.
|Empoli 1:2 Napoli|
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