Ancelotti’s reign as Napoli manager got off to a winning start as they claimed a 2-1 victory away to Lazio last weekend, while AC Milan’s meeting with Genoa was called off in the wake of the Morandi bridge collapse.
Will Milan end their San Paolo hoodoo? Read and find out what our writer is backing.
Napoli vs AC Milan
Saturday 25 August
Stadio San Paolo
AC Milan 17/4
Having pushed Juventus hard for the Serie A title last term – finishing just four points adrift of the eventual champions – Napoli will be hoping for more of the same this season. The Partenopei finished last season with 91 points under Maurizio Sarri, which is the exact amount of points Juventus had in the previous two seasons to be crowned champions.
But after their superb campaign, Sarri’s heart was set on a move to Stamford Bridge when Chelsea’s interest became known and club president Aurelio De Laurentiis brought in Ancelotti. The 59-year-old has a track record of success and he’ll bring his championship winning experience to the Partenopei as they look to wrestle the title from Juve.
Ancelotti’s team has been weakened though by the departures of deep-lying playmaker Jorginho and goalkeeper Pepe Reina. The Italy international is now at Chelsea, continuing his development under Sarri while the 35-year-old shot-stopper headed north for Saturday’s opponents.
The loss of Jorginho is a huge blow, but last season’s Serie A runners-up still have high quality players in their side and are in safe hands with Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina, who arrived from Arsenal last week. The Partenopei have also added highly-rated Spanish midfielder Fabian Ruiz from Real Betis and striker Simone Verdi from Bologna.
The Naples-based side will fancy their chances against Milan, having beaten them on their turf in the previous two seasons. In fact, the last time they lost at home to the Rossoneri was in October 2010 when Gennaro Gattuso was still playing for them. Napoli lost just twice at home last season with 14 wins, netting 43 goals – two less than Juventus managed at their stadium.
There is great belief this season that AC Milan can improve on their sixth place finish and clinch the Champions League football they so desperately crave, but Gattuso’s new-look side face a tough start to the Serie A campaign when they travel to Naples to face last season’s runners-up.
The Rossoneri haven’t won at the Stadio San Paolo in the last seven seasons and their hopes will be pinned on former Napoli man Higuain. Thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo joining Juventus, the Turin-based club allowed their prolific Argentine forward to join the red and black of Milan, on a season-long loan deal. The Rossoneri lost Leonardo Bonucci as part of that deal, but they did bring in a younger and promising Italian defender in Mattia Caldara to partner star centre-back Alessio Romagnoli.
French midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko has also joined on loan from Chelsea with the view of making the move permanent for around £35m and fans will be hoping he can recapture the form of his Monaco days. The Rossoneri have also brought in Samu Castillejo of Villarreal and Diego Laxalt of Genoa, while Reina, Alen Halilovic and 2018 World Cup finalist Ivan Strinic all signed on free transfers. Milan are still some way off rising to the summit of Italian football but the future looks bright.
Gattuso will accept a point away to Napoli but might feel his team have enough quality to come away with all three. With Higuain in the side, Milan finally have a genuine, proven, elite goalscorer.
Verdict: Double Chance & Both Teams to Score – Home-Draw/Yes (21/20)
Despite the loss of Sarri and Jorginho, Napoli are still a top side and Ancelotti is one of the best managers in the world. The Partenopei are tough to beat on their turf and I don’t see them losing this game, however, their open game could hand Milan goalscoring opportunities. I suggest taking Napoli on the Double Chance & Both Teams to Score at even money.