The final International break of the season has run its course as we return to Italian football. With just 10 games to go things have heated up more so now than ever regarding of the Champions League race. Roma is hanging on by a thread as they are on the outside looking in. Five Points behind AC Milan for fourth in the league doesn’t look promising but there are 10 games left a lot can happen. Roma is coming off a miserable loss to SPAL with a lot of tension prior to the International break. With all the changes that have gone on with the club their time is now to either turn it on or fall short of Champions League football. Roma returns with a huge test as a welcome high-flying Napoli to the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday afternoon. A match that should have its unique challenges. As we will see the Derby Del Sol between it Napoli and Roma. It has been a very competitive matchup historically speaking even though Roma a moderate Edge in the head-to-head. However, over the last five years, it has been incredibly competitive. Roma nearly stole three points at the Stadio San Paolo Stephan El Shaarawy saw his opening goal canceled out by Dries Mertens at the death of the match in what was a 1-1 draw. This time it’s at the Stadio Olimpico with an opportunity for Napoli to keep their momentum for Roma to try to get on track in the Champions League race once again. Quite easily one of the best matches we will see in Italian football this week will desperate Roma find a way to rebound against one of the strongest teams in Italy. Or will Napoli do the job that is expected of them and collect another three points to continue to take their momentum through the rest of the season. We will find all that out and more as the Derby del Sol On what should be a very exciting and competitive Sunday afternoon.
Claudio Ranieri will have a few more players available as he gets closer to having a full-strength squad. Cengiz Under Roma’s most explosive player will finally make his return to the team this week and is a game-time decision to start the match. He has been severely missed since picking up a thigh injury at the Midway point of the season against Torino. It is possible the Alex Kolarov will return as well which will give Roma’s defense another dimension. However, it appears Lorenzo Pellegrini and Daniele De Rossi will remain out with their injuries which could be a big deal in a match like this. I suspect there will be no change in the formation as Claudio Ranieri has gone with the 4-2-3-1 setup since he has taken over. The defense is still is a little thin without Kostas Manolas. However, the return of Kolarov will help I suspect we will see the center-back partnership of Davie Santon and Federico Fazio while Alexandro Florenzi occupying is typical right back position. In Roma’s defensive Midfield with De Rossi still, out we should see Bryan Cristante and Steven Nzonzi pair together as the holding midfielders. Steven Nzonzi has been linked with a move away from the Stadio Olimpico this summer and it has been brought up in the news this week but for the time being, he is a Roma player. El Shaarawy according to reports match as well with a training injury he picked up while on International Duty with that is a report but I do have some suspicions that Claudio Ranieri may have leaked it after the bust-up with Roma’s best player during the last match. In the central position of Roma’s attacking Midfield should be Nicolo Zaniolo the Roma teen sensation who has reportedly agreed to a new contract over the week. On the outside, we should see The Return of Cengiz under in the starting lineup as well as Justin Kluivert on the opposite side. I believe that is the smartest approach the way to hurt Napoli is with pace and the youngsters are as quick as anyone in Italian football. Then up front as long as the main Striker should be Edin Dzeko who is another player who has been in the news as Inter Milan and West Ham United have him at the top of their transfer list for the summer. The key player for Roma in this matchup is Cengiz Under if he is at 100% he could be a huge X Factor. With Roma’s most valuable player in Midfield Lorenzo Pellegrini and Roma’s best player Stephan El Shaarawy both OUT the Turkish star being put back into the team, it’s huge especially in a game like this where points are everything.
Napoli is one of the most dangerous attacking teams and all of the Italian football there always a threat to score at any point in time. We can expect Carlo Ancelotti to put his team in the most dangerous position possible. Napoli has for the most part been consistent with the 4-4-2 formation with a lot of weapons throughout the team there’s a lot of different ways in which Ancelotti can set his team up. Napoli keeper will likely be Alex Meret after Napoli’s number #2 David Ospina had a horrific head injury prior to the international break and I think it just to be safe he will not be used. Defensively Napoli can go in many different directions pricing is likely we will see Malcuilt & Gholum on the outside With Koulibaly and Hysaj should be paired together as Napoli’s center-backs. Napoli has a very tough defense and regardless of what options they go with it will be hard to break through. There should be very little change if any in Napoli’s Midfield which is the orchestrator of their high-powered offense. With the likes of Zielinski Callejon Allen & Younes however, they have unlimited options especially in the Midfield that they can use and Angelotti might shift it a little bit but since they played so well last time out I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more or less the same team. In the Napoli forward play, we are likely to see RED HOT Millik and Dries Mertens two of the most dangerous players in the league. This Napoli team is quick and dangerous even though they will be without Lorenzo Insigne they can kill you if you give them the opportunity. My key player for Napoli is the silent assassin Millik he is quietly been one of the best strikers in the League this season and even though the media has not been given him the recognition I have taken notice and he could be a huge problem for Roma.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is Napoli have everything in the world going for them. They will go into this game as heavy favorites and I think they are very likely to deliver on it. Napoli is in incredibly good form they are miles in front of the rest of the pack securely in 2nd looks to be the favorites in the Europa League and are just playing brilliant attacking football. It’s what they’ve always done and this year has been no different. Even though they do have some injuries, not enough significant ones they are dangerous from all aspects. They are incredibly strong defensively with perhaps one of the best center backs in the world in Koulibaly. A strong Midfield that can kill you if they are given the chance but are not flawless. Napoli is far superior to Roma’s with two absolute machines capable of either creating or scoring goals. Roma is everything the Napoli isn’t they are inconsistent they are in a state of chaos and quite honestly have no momentum whatsoever. Everything that I’ve said points to a Napoli victory and this is why I Roma might actually have a chance. I think it will be tough regardless and Claudio Ranieri needs to use his scheme in the best way possible. Top-to-bottom Napoli is the better team no one in the world is going to argue that. In Rome’s home at the Stadio Olimpico only twice have Roma been beaten at home in the League this season but even so, Napoli still have a legit chance because they have picked up victories at the Olimpico in past seasons. However, because it’s in their own backyard Roma have a chance to do something special if they’re able to execute. Napoli has the advantage everywhere but Roma if they line-up correctly they could find a way to hurt them. Cengiz Under is back which is a big deal if he is not playing in this game I give Roma a very small chance how if he is playing in this game Roma have a decent shot. Let me explain why Napoli Midfield is strong but it could be worn out with speed. Roma line up Cengiz Under with Justin Kluivert along with Nicolo Zaniolo. You have a passing threat in the middle and two Roman speedsters on the outside. Kluivert and Under have enough space to cause a Napoli to be disoriented. This game will come down to finishing in front of goal Roma need to take advantage of their chances. It is possible they will not have very many chances so it is important that when they have one they need to strike GOLD. Napoli will dominate possession which is very dangerous especially for a poor defense that’s not even completely healthy. Everything points to Napoli and it is going to be incredibly tough for Roma to hold them off. The difference is Roma understand how much they need it. If they are unable to get points from this game they can pretty much kiss Champions League football next season goodbye it is already a small chance but if they don’t get points here it is over. I’m going to be bold here don’t get me wrong everything it’s pointing towards Napoli they should win this game there’s no doubt in my mind that that’s what should happen. Roma needs a response after the disaster that took place two weeks ago. I believe Kluivert and Under will cause enough Mayhem to disrupt and find a way to secure all three points. Napoli have nothing to gain they will give everything they have to make it extremely tough but Roma have everything on the line They will make Roma earn everything but in the end Roma will find a way using the space they have on the outside to do enough damage to secure the three points if they don’t Champions League football will not be in their future.
Roma’s Projected starting XI 4-3-2-1
GK: Robin Olsen
DEF: Alex Kolarov, Davie Santon, Federico Fazio, Juan Jesus
DEF MID: Steven Nzonzi, Bryan Cristante
ATT MID: Justin Kluivert, Nicolo Zaniolo, Cengiz Under
Striker: Edin Dzeko
Manager: Claudio Ranieri
Napoli’s Projected starting XI 4-4-2
DEF: Hysaj, Koulibaly, Gholum, Malcuit
DEF MID: Verdi,Zielinski,Allen,Callejon
Strikers Striker: Mertens, Millik
Manager: Carlo Ancelotti
Players to Watch
Date: Sunday March 31st, 2019
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Kickoff: 8:00AM (USA) 2:00PM (ENG), 3:00PM (ITA)
TV Broadcast: Sky Italia, ESPN+