Italian Serie A

Napoli v Roma – Sunday 6th January – Stadio San Paolo (21:45)

Napoli v Roma

The Serie A returns from its Christmas break to play their first game of 2013. Champions Juventus have a healthy eight point lead at the top of the table while Napoli, arguably their biggest threat in the title race, sit third after being docked two points in the latest match fixing scandal and have some work to do as they trail Juve by 10 points. Napoli have a mammoth clash this weekend as they host fellow title challengers Roma who lie two points off them.

Napoli left it late but still managed to get three points as they battled to a 2-0 away win over Siena in their last match just before Christmas. The two sides were level until the 86th minute when Christian Maggio broke the deadlock, and Edinson Cavani put the result beyond any doubt by converting a penalty kick in the 90th minute. The win ended a two-game league slide after losing to Inter away and Bologna at home. Walter Mazzarri’s men were then dealt further blows in their quest for the title after becoming the latest Italian team to be punished in the country’s match-fixing scandal. Besides being hit with the two-point deduction, captain Paolo Cannavaro and vice-captain Gianluca Grava were banned for six months for failing to report the fix even though they declined the offer. Napoli boss Walter Mazzarri has recently stated he was happy with how 2012 went for his side which included wins over Chelsea (Champions League), Juventus (Coppa Italia final) and Manchester City (Champions League).The Naples outfit are now considered as one of the continent’s top sides. It was also an impressive start to the new season as they racked up six wins from their opening seven games. They recently turned down a €55m offer for Cavani, with club owner Aurelio De Laurentiis indicating that the Uruguayan’s “warrior” spirit will be key to a Serie A title push. Napoli’s recent loss to Bologna was their first home loss for the season, winning their other six out of nine matches in total.

Roma got back to winning ways in convincing fashion before the break two weeks ago, thrashing AC Milan 4-2 at their Stadio Olimpico. The home side found themselves three goals up inside the opening half-hour as Nicolas Burdisso, Pablo Daniel Osvaldo and Erik Lamela chipped in with a goal apiece. Lamela helped extend Roma’s lead just after the hour mark before his side was reduced to 10 men in the 77th minute. Milan took advantage and bagged two goals in the final four minutes. Roma have now won six of their last eight games. Erik Lamela has impressed in netting ten goals, while Pablo Osvaldo has nine and Francesco Totti is showing no signs of slowing down at age 37 chipping in with six goals of his own, crafting out five more assists. This dangerous trio is expected to spearhead Roma’s attack once again. Their away form has been inconsistent but they have managed five wins in their nine outings, losing the other four. They have scored the third highest away goals in the Serie A behind Juventus and AC Milan.

Roma won here last season before getting only a point at home in the second round. Napoli have been solid at home but Roma have hit form and this should be an end to end encounter. They are tipped to cancel each other out with a score draw.

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