Desperate to finally end their title drought, which dates back to the days of the late, great Diego Maradona, Napoli ended 2022 by winning each of their last 11 Serie A matches – the best streak in the Italian top flight since a typically dominant run from Juventus five years ago.
Finishing up the first phase of their campaign by beating Atalanta, Empoli and then Udinese – the latter via a 3-2 victory at Stadio Maradona in November – Luciano Spalletti’s side lead the standings by eight points from Milan ahead of their first fixture of the new year, but must now build that momentum all over again.
Former Inter boss Spalletti now takes his side to the second city, at the helm of the only team still undefeated throughout Europe’s top five leagues, and he will hope they can retain such status despite meeting both the Nerazzurri and Juve in their first three matches of 2023.
Inter tuned up for their return to competitive action with a training camp in Malta, followed by four friendly wins from five and a 1-1 draw against Real Betis during the World Cup break, but they now start part two of their Serie A campaign with one of its toughest tests yet.
While World Cup winner Lautaro Martinez has finally returned to training after his nation’s triumph in the final and subsequent celebrations, Simone Inzaghi is set to favour Romelu Lukaku – who endured a rather less fruitful time in Qatar – and reliable veteran Edin Dzeko up front on Wednesday.
Croatia midfielder Marcelo Brozovic has suffered a calf strain which could keep him out of action until Inter’s Supercoppa Italiana clash with city rivals Milan later this month, so Henrikh Mkhitaryan should feature from the start, having overcome a back injury picked up in the recent friendly against Sassuolo.
Francesco Acerbi is set to be preferred to Stefan de Vrij in the hosts’ back three, while Andre Onana takes the gloves ahead of club captain and long-term number one Samir Handanovic, having left the Cameroon camp in controversial circumstances last month.
Chief among them is winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, who returns from a back problem which sidelined him before the break.
Hirving Lozano and Matteo Politano resume their tussle for a spot on the right flank too, but Mario Rui should beat Mathias Olivera to a start at left-back.
Possible starting lineup:
Data will be available at kick off time or sooner.
Inter Milan (37.1%)
Inter Milan 2-2 Napoli
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