Soccer Italy Serie A 4 March 2023
Napoli vs Lazio - Match Preview
Napoli’s seemingly inevitable march towards their first Serie A (SA) title since 1989/90 continued with a 2-0 win at Empoli on Saturday which extended their lead at the top of the table to 18 points. Such has been their dominance in recent weeks that following their eighth consecutive league victory, prediction analysts Opta now give them a 99.9% chance of winning the title!
Now 14 matches since the Partenopei’s last home league defeat (W12, D2), that percentage is unlikely to drop any time soon as they’ve won each of the last six H2Hs against Lazio here. With Napoli scoring an average of four goals per game across the last three of those meetings, manager Luciano Spalletti must be confident of improving his personal H2H record against opposite number Maurizio Sarri (W5, D2, L1).
Sarri was happy with Lazio’s Monday night 1-0 win over Sampdoria which guaranteed they’ll start this contest in the top five, and they’re hitting form at the right time as they chase European qualification (W3, D2, L1). He admitted they weren’t at their best when recently drawing 0-0 at Cluj in the UEFA Europa Conference League (Feb 23), but said he “liked the team overall”.
Keeping it tight and striking late seems to be Lazio’s blueprint for success, as they’ve kept a first-half clean sheet in 20 of their 24 league games this term – nobody across Europe’s top-five leagues has done so more often. So if anybody can stop the in-form Napoli frontline, it could be the visitors, as only Napoli has conceded as few goals (seven) in league away action as Lazio has this term.
📋 Players to watch: By scoring against Empoli, Napoli’s Victor Osimhen netted in his eighth consecutive SA appearance and he might be eyeing the record jointly held by Gabriel Batistuta, Fabio Quagliarella and Cristiano Ronaldo (11). Sarri was full of praise for Luis Alberto (LAZ) after his goal against Sampdoria, his sixth consecutive league strike to arrive after the 55th minute.
⚡ Hot stat: There were goals during both halves in five of the last six H2Hs (Napoli: W5, L1).
Monza vs Empoli - Match Preview
Back-to-back defeats ‘to-nil‘, including a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Salernitana last time out, has slowed down Monza‘s charge towards the top half in their maiden Serie A (SA) season, but the mood at the club should remain positive, especially with the club‘s president Silvio Berlusconi reportedly looking for new investors to help take the team to the next level.
Sitting comfortably 12 points above the relegation zone, Monza will be eager to avoid their first three-game losing streak since the five defeats in a row they registered at the start of the season. They will also be keen to get their first home win of 2023 under their belt (D3, L1), but with each of those four outings witnessing Monza concede first – and three times inside the opening 15 minutes – a good start is sure to be crucial.
An injury-depleted Empoli were comfortably beaten by Napoli last time out, with coach Paolo Zanetti admitting that in his opinion, “there’s no better team in Europe” than SA’s runaway leaders. Even so, he was left frustrated by the defending from his team in the build-up to both goals with each deriving from corners, and it’s now no win in five SA games for the Tuscany-based (D3, L2).
With an unbeaten SA away record when finding the back of the net (W2, D6), a goal could give the mid-table side the platform to end that winless league run here. However, as one of the pision’s ‘draw specialists’ this season, collecting a joint-league high ten draws coming into the round, we might instead be in store for another deadlock, which was the case when these two last met in the league at this venue back in February 2021 (1-1).
📋 Players to watch: Monza‘s Patrick Ciurria has scored three goals in 2023, with each arriving inside the opening 20 minutes. Tommaso Baldanzi remains Empoli‘s top SA scorer with four goals, including the winner at Inter earlier this year.
⚡ Hot stat: Monza have collected all of their eight SA wins after scoring first (D1, L2).
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