It might be time for Christmas celebration in Spain and Germany, but Italian and English fans will be treated to Boxing Day fixtures and trust me, you do not want to miss this one.
3rd placed Inter Milan will take on 2nd placed Napoli on the Boxing Day and neither teams can afford a defeat at this point in the league. Here is everything you need to know before the game kicks off:
When and where to watch the game:
Inter will host Napoli at the San Siro on Thursday, 27th December at 1 AM IST. (Time difference might not technically make it the Boxing Day fixture for Indian fans, but we are used to it by now, aren’t we?) Indian fans can watch the game on the Sony Network and sonyliv.com.
— Official SSC Napoli (@sscnapoli) December 24, 2018
It is safe to say that Inter Milan are out of the title race as they sit 16 points behind Juventus in the third place. Their recent results have let them down so much so that, the Nerazzurri will probably be fighting for the Champions League spot against Lazio, Roma and AC Milan by the end of this season.
Inter were heading to a 1-0 victory in their last game against Chievo before the hosts equalized in the injury time. With that draw, Inter have now won just one out of the last four league games. Pressure is on Luciano Spalletti to get things right with Jose Mourinho’s name doing rounds in the rumor mill.
Napoli, on the other hand, are trying their best to stay behind Juventus as much as possible. After their defeat to the Turin club, Carlo Ancelotti’s men have not lost a single game in the league. But despite their best efforts, Azzurri are still eight points behind Juventus and only a miracle can bring them closer. Raul Albiol’s goal late in the first half was enough for them against SPAL in the last fixture.
The biggest news coming out of Inter’s dugout is the suspension of Radja Nainggolan. The Belgian has been temporarily suspended by the club for disciplinary reasons. Apart from the midfielder’s absence, Inter look ready to go with Kwadwo Asamoah also returning after the suspension. There are no other major injury concerns for Spalletti.
Apart from the long-term absentee Vlad Chiriches, Napoli’s only major concern is Allan’s back injury. The Brazilian is a doubt for the Boxing Day showdown and Napoli are likely to take a late call on his availability.
Expected Line-Ups and Formation:
Asamoah will return to the left-back position after returning from suspension. The rest of the Inter’s back four will be unchanged with Vrsaljko, Skriniar, and De Vrij. With Nainggolan out due to suspension, Vecino will take his place in the midfield. The Uruguayan will partner Brozovic and Joao Mario in the middle of the park. Icardi will lead the attack with Politano and Perisic on the wings.
(4-3-3) Handanovic (GK); Vrsaljko, Skriniar, De Vrij, Asamoah; Vecino, Brozovic, Joao Mario; Politano, Icardi, Perisic
Despite a hard-fought victory against SPAL, expect Ancelotti to make a very few changes in the starting line-up. Fabian Ruiz is likely to replace Marko Rog in the midfield and that should be it. Mertens and Insigne will lead the attack with 14 league goals amongst them.
(4-4-2) Meret (GK); Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Callejon, Zielinski, Hamsik, Fabian Ruiz; Mertens, Insigne
Expect a worthy Boxing Day showdown between two Italian giants at the San Siro. But I’ll have to give an edge to Napoli due to their recent form and an ability to grind out the results despite average performance. Three points for the visitors!