Napoli v Roma preview: Emotional trip to Stadio San Paolo awaits

It will be an emotional evening on Sunday when Roma travel to face Napoli.

The whole football world – but especially the city of Naples – is still in mourning following the death of Diego Maradona. This will be the first Serie A game to take place at Napoli’s stadium since their legend’s passing.

Napoli v Roma is always a standout fixture in the Serie A calendar, but this match will have an even more special feel to it.

While Napoli are looking to play in Maradona’s honour, Roma are hoping to continue their momentum. Paulo Fonseca has led the club to five wins in a row for the first time in his tenure; he is now looking to make it six.

That winning run is part of an even longer unbeaten run that, not counting the walkover defeat to Hellas Verona, stretches back to July. The last team to beat Roma in Serie A? Napoli.

Since that day, Roma have responded brilliantly, using their new 3-4-2-1 formation to revive their fortunes. While the performances overall have vastly improved, one thing that could still be asked of the Giallorossi is their ability to get results against their rivals for the top spots.

Fonseca claimed a significant win against such an opponent by beating Juventus on the final day of last season, but in reality, both sides fielded weakened teams that day. However, it was a sign of progress, which has also been backed up by draws against Inter Milan last season and Juventus again this term, both of which could and probably should have been wins. There was also a decent draw against AC Milan which showed Roma can compete at the top again.

Hence, if Roma can get all three points against Napoli, it would show just how far the Lupi have come.

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After getting through a Europa League clash with Cluj with limited numbers, Fonseca can call upon some of his more regular starters against Napoli.

The coach has confirmed that Edin Dzeko will make his first start since recovering from Covid-19. It is testament to Roma’s resilience and depth that they have still been able to win without their captain, but his return will add another dangerous element to the attack.

There are also returning faces in defence. Gianluca Mancini and Roger Ibanez have recovered from minor injuries, so are back in the squad. With Chris Smalling still out, they could come straight back in either side of Bryan Cristante.

There are several players who could line up against their former club for either side. Napoli have Kostas Manolas, Mario Rui and Matteo Politano, all of whom were once at Roma; the Giallorossi have Amadou Diawara, whom they signed from their opponents last summer.

Diawara, like Dzeko, has also returned to the squad in recent weeks. He will be vying with Lorenzo Pellegrini, Jordan Veretout and Gonzalo Villar for a role in midfield.

It has been very hard to separate Roma and Napoli in recent years. The two clubs have shared an almost equal number of wins.

The loss at Stadio San Paolo before this strong run was the first time in five games that Napoli had beaten Roma at the venue. It is perhaps a good omen for the club on their travels.

In addition, the Partenopei have lost their last two home games in Serie A, so it could be an opportunity for Roma.

Indeed, the Giallorossi go into the game in very good form, so should be full of confidence. Anything other than a defeat will maintain their place in the top four.

The game kicks off at 7:45pm UK time and will be available to watch live on Premier Sports 1.

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