Insight, form and news ahead of Tuesday evening’s encounter between Hellas Verona and Napoli.
#1. Head to Head. For Hellas fans this is always a keenly anticipated fixture in the Serie A calendar, as there is a degree of regional animosity between the northern and southern clubs that has on occasion been known to spill over into outright animosity. Back in October, the corresponding fixture at the San Paolo finished 2-0 for the home side, thanks to two Milik goals. Since then, Napoli have experienced a player revolt, replaced Ancelotti with Rino Gattuso and, just last week, lifted the Coppa Italia for the sixth time in the club's history. Verona have also been on something of a journey since then, taking points from Milan, Lazio and Juventus and emerging as one of the surprise packages of Serie A.
#2. The form book. Verona were impressive on Saturday evening against Cagliari, particularly in the first 35 minutes before Borini was sent off. Napoli represent a different level of threat to that posed by Cagliari, and Verona will have to be at their best if they are to take anything from the game. For Napoli it's their first Serie A outing since they beat Torino at the end of February, but they have of course lifted the Coppa Italia in the meantime. Indeed, a second leg draw against Inter, which was enough to secure them a place in the final, and their victory against Juventus on penalties in the final has given them a degree of match preparedness and momentum that Verona’s single encounter against Cagliari can’t quite match. Instead, Verona will be hoping that Napoli are still recovering from the exuberant celebrations that followed their cup victory against Juve.
#3. One to watch - Amir Rrahmani. Having agreed a €14 million deal to join Napoli next season, Rrahmani’s performance will be closely scrutinized on Tuesday evening, not least by his future boss, Rino Gattuso. The 26-year-old Kosovan has been one of Verona’s most consistent players this season, an integral part of Verona’s formidable defensive 3-man defensive unit. Playing for Partizani Tirana in the Albanian Superliga, at the end of 2014–15 season, he was named Talent of the Season. After a couple of impressive seasons in Albania he moved to Croatian side Split, before a €1.6 million deal took him to Dinamo Zagreb, where he spent his first season on loan to Lokomotiva Zagreb, before returning to Dinamo for the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons. In summer 2019 he signed a 4-year deal with Hellas Verona for reported fee of €2 million. He racked up 9 Europa League appearances and 29 caps and 5 goals for the Kosovan national team. Tall and mobile, Rrahmani is the epitomy of a modern centre half. He reads the game well and is quick to snuff out danger in and around the box. Formidable in the air, he’s also a threat from set-pieces. Calm and unflappable, he’s played in all 26 Serie A games for Hellas this season and has barely put a foot wrong all season.
#4. The visitors. Napoli have a formidable squad, full of quality and personality. Expect to see a similar lineup to that which overcame Juventus last Wednesday, with Mertens likely to get the not ahead of Arek Milik and Insigne and Callejòn making up a potent attacking trident.
#5. Runners and riders. Following his red card against Cagliari, Borini will certainly miss out against Napoli. If he recovers from the muscular injury that saw him sit out the Cagliari match, influential young midfielder Matteo Pessina may return to the Verona starting lineup. Also, expect to see Matteo Zaccagni from the start with his distinctive new hair colouring! In a surprise move, Badu started against Cagliari in midfield for Verona, but Juric may prefer to employ the guile and control offered by Veloso. Empereur was another surprise inclusion on Tuesday night, but Gunter should return to his place at the heart of Verona’s defence. After finding the net twice against Cagliari, Di Carmine is certain to once again lead the line for Verona.
*Ahead of the match The Crazy Faithful previewed the match with the Forza Napoli Pod. Listen in at: Forza Napoli Podcast