Five key battles in Napoli vs Inter

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Serie A leaders Inter will visit second-placed Napoli in a crucial weekend as the Italian league enters a critical stage of the season.

The game will be a clash of two different brands of football as both sides have their strengths in different areas of the field. Let's take a look at the key battles which will determine the outcome of the game.

Napoli's attack vs Inter's defence

This will be a fascinating duel to watch, the Nerazzurri's back-line have been watertight, meanwhile Napoli have been scoring goals for fun.


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Inter have conceded just seven goals from their 13 Serie A matches so far, Gonzalo Higuain and company have scored 24 goals in the league and 17 more in the Europa League.

As Inter have kept an impressive nine clean sheets, there is no doubt Roberto Mancini's men have been relying more on their defence than they would have probably liked. Therefore, Maurizio Sarri's side looks like the more balanced side at this point, as Napoli are no slouches defensively either, with eight clean sheets too.

After considering the statistics and the sheer attacking quality at Napoli's disposal, we should expect a tough evening for Inter's in-form custodian Samir Handanovic. The Slovenian will need to be at his absolute best if his side are going to get a result at Stadio San Paulo.

Gonzalo Higuain vs Samir Handanovic

Both are among the best players in the world in their positions, but they have received little recognition due to their sides' struggles in Europe in recent years. Despite his unpredictable dips in form, Higuain has developed into a goal-scoring machine for Napoli, netting 66 times since his arrival at the club in 2013.

The battle between Handanovic's reflexes and Higuain's finishing is expected to be one of the key duels of the night, as both men desperately want to lead their teams to the Scudetto at the end of the season.

Felipe Melo vs Allan

Two Brazilians, two new additions to their teams and two rough-tacklers.

Both players have been crucial for holding both of their midfield's together since the start of the season. While Allan provides more energetic presence when running forward, Felipe Melo's experience and tough grip in the centre of the pitch has been invaluable for Inter.

As Allan is only 24-years old, it is no surprise that he offers more pace and agility in the middle of the park. However, Melo is more than capable of suppressing his fellow countryman's impact on the game,

His midfield partners Geoffrey Kondogbia and Gary Medel do not tend to allow too much space on their opponents either so the duel between Melo and Allan is probably the most evenly-matched battle to keep an eye on.

Stefan Jovetic vs Napoli's defence

Too often this season, Jovetic has been Inter's only attacking threat. The Montenegrin has been isolated in the majority of the Nerazzurri's games as Mancini's tactical approach doesn't provide much support for his in-form striker. The former Fiorentina man has been left to create and score on his own and it is beginning to have a negative impact on Inter's attack.

As we mentioned above, Napoli's defence has been quite impressive this season with Raul Albiol and Kalidou Koulibaly rediscovering their best form.

However, the duo should be alert for Jovetic's exploits. The 26-year-old is not always capable of producing wonders on his own, but he can be a real menace to any opposition when provided with the necessary support. Therefore, the likes of Mauro Icardi and Ivan Perisic will be crucial for Inter to have any chance of winning the game. The Milan side are more than capable of taking their chances if they can find enough space.

Maurizio Sarri vs Roberto Mancini

Two completely different personalities and philosophies will clash in Naples tonight.

Sarri has been rewarded with an entertaining and efficient playing style for being able to insert unity and cohesion between some brilliant individuals such as Lorenzo Insigne, Marek Hamsik and Jose Callejon.

On the other hand, Mancini's team is built around the defensive solidity of his players and his world-class goalkeeper. The 51-year-old's brand of football is very slow-paced and static compared to Napoli's fluency, however the former Manchester City boss has provided a much-needed winning mentality to a struggling Inter side - plagued by mediocrity in recent years.

Despite their obvious differences, Maurizio Sarri and Roberto Mancini have one thing in common - good results. While there's no doubt that the 22 players on the field will be very important, the mind-games between Mancini and Sarri could be the difference in this long-awaited encounter.

Inter Milan
Serie A

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