Napoli VS Empoli, hosts to win

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Match Time:1/14/2021 00:45 Thursday  (GMT+8)

Coppa Italia --  Napoli   VS   Empoli

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Cup holders Napoli welcome Serie B-leading Empoli to Stadio Diego Maradona on Tuesday, taking the first step in their defence of the Coppa Italia.

Having beaten old foes Juventus in last year's final, the Partenopei take on Alessio Dionisi's in-form side in the last 16 of this season's competition.

 

Match preview

Ahead of kicking off their cup defence, Tiemoue Bakayoko's forceful last-minute header earned Napoli all three points in Serie A action at the weekend, as Gennaro Gattuso's team eventually overcame a resolute Udinese outfit at the Dacia Arena.

Currently on loan from Chelsea - after similar spells with Milan and former club Monaco - the French midfielder has established himself as an integral part of Gattuso's XI this term - featuring in all but one league game so far.

His late winner ensured Napoli, who had been going through a sticky patch either side of Christmas, kept pace in the race for Champions League qualification. In the Serie A standings, the Partenopei now sit in fifth place - alongside key rivals Atalanta on 31 points.

Italian media sources reported enraged screams and punches to the walls of Stadio Diego Maradona after Napoli's inexplicable home loss to lowly Spezia last week, as their furious coach unleashed his characteristically fiery temper upon his squad, whose collective character he subsequently called into question.

That outburst was perhaps a risk for Gattuso, who has yet to agree a new contract with the club's similarly fervent president, Aurelio de Laurentiis ahead of his current deal's expiry in the summer.

Having rebounded from a spell of three league defeats in five, the former Milan manager can turn his full focus towards the visit of Serie B promotion favourites Empoli, as Napoli look to claim a seventh Coppa in the spring.

The modest Tuscan club - who have yet to win the coveted trophy in their 100-year history - arrive in Naples having lost just one league game all season, leaving them three points clear of second-placed Salernitana.

Unlike their fellow Azzurri outfit, Napoli - who enter the cup at this stage due to involvement in European competition - Empoli have made it through three previous rounds to reach the final 16.

Defeating Renate, overachieving Serie A newcomers Benevento and Brescia, former Venezia boss Alessio Dionisi - appointed last August - has guided his new club to a glamour tie at the Maradona.

Empoli warmed up for their toughest test of the season with a 2-0 win at struggling Cosenza last time out - with on-loan duo Ryder Matos (of Udinese) and Marco Olivieri (Juventus) starting up front - though will have had a nine-day break between games.

The winner of this tie is set to meet either Roma or Spezia in the quarter-finals, though it will take an almighty shock on Wednesday for the Serie B side to get that far.

Such an upset did occur the last time these two clubs met though, with Empoli pulling off a 2-1 home win in April 2019. Their XI that day featured current Serie A regulars including Milan pair Ismael Bennacer and Rade Krunic, now-Fiorentina goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski and Sassuolo stars Hamed Traore and Francesco Caputo.

A more moderate squad will travel south to meet the Neapolitan giants this time around - more in hope than expectation.

 

Napoli form (all competitions): LLDWLW

Empoli Coppa Italia form: WWW

Empoli form (all competitions): WDDWDW

 

Team News

Given the intensity of the early-year schedule - and several injuries to star men - Gennaro Gattuso may take this opportunity to rotate his talented Napoli squad.

Following his disastrous debut against Udinese, which came a year after first signing from Verona, Kosovar defender Amir Rrahmani could be offered another opportunity due to a lack of available bodies in the centre of the back four. Giovanni Di Lorenzo - who faces an upcoming suspension in Serie A - is also likely to feature at the back, alongside Faouzi Ghoulam and Nikola Maksimovic, as first-choices Kalidou Koulibaly and Kostas Manolas are both out.

In midfield, Stanislav Lobotka could feature, with veteran Fernando Llorente competing for a start with Andrea Petagna up front. Dries Mertens and Victor Osimhen remain unavailable and instead aim to be fit for the Supercoppa Italiana against Juventus next week.

Empoli coach Alessio Dionisi must do without the injured Filippo Bandinelli and Davide Zappella but has most of his squad available to consider for selection.

Expected to adhere to his usual 4-3-1-2 setup, Dionisi's defence should comprise Simone Romagnoli and Nicolo Casale in the centre, with on-loan Riccardo Fiamozzi and former Avellino full-back Fabiano Parisi on the flanks.

Playmaker Nedim Bajrami will support Matos and Olivieri up front, though either Andrea La Mantia or Leonardo Mancuso - the club's top scorer in the Coppa Italia so far - could start in the front pairing.

 

Napoli possible starting lineup:

Meret; Di Lorenzo, Maksimovic, Rrahmani, Ghoulam; Demme, Lobotka; Politano, Zielinski, Insigne; Llorente

Empoli possible starting lineup:

Furlan; Fiamozzi, Casale, Romagnoli, Parisi; Ricci, Stulac, Haas; Bajrami; Matos, Olivieri

 

Napoli 2-1 Empoli

 

Napoli VS Empoli, hosts to win

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