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Dec 4, 2021 at 7.45pm UK
AtalantaAtalanta BC
Zielinski (40'), Mertens (47')
Rrahmani (58'), Malcuit (64')
FT(HT: 1-1)
Malinovskyi (7'), Demiral (66'), Freuler (71')
Malinovskyi (17'), Pasalic (82'), Djimsiti (87')

Preview: Napoli vs. Atalanta BC - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Napoli vs. Atalanta BC - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Saturday's Serie A clash between Napoli and Atalanta BC, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Two of Serie A's top four clash in the Saturday evening kickoff this week, as leaders Napoli welcome in-form Atalanta BC to Stadio Maradona.

In a fixture which has been reliably entertaining in recent times, the Scudetto hopefuls convene in Campania with the hosts now just five points clear of their visitors following a late collapse at Sassuolo in midweek.

Match preview

Having re-established their three-point lead with a comprehensive win against Lazio last weekend - when club record scorer Dries Mertens netted twice before the half-hour mark in a 4-0 success - Napoli travelled to meet Sassuolo on Wednesday, high in confidence that a previous three-match winless streak had been put behind them.

However, the Azzurri were ultimately held to a 2-2 draw at the Mapei Stadium, as a two-goal lead - with Mertens on the scoresheet once again - waned in the final minutes, and they were forced to settle for a solitary point.

Therefore, Milan's victory at Genoa has cut Napoli's lead at the top of Serie A by two ahead of the weekend's action, in which Luciano Spalletti's side return to their Neapolitan stronghold.

Since being beaten by Spezia at the start of 2021, they have posted 14 wins and four draws in their subsequent league fixtures at the Maradona, including six victories for the concession of just two goals there so far this season.

Following their midweek misstep, though, Spalletti will be concerned about a faltering defensive record, having previously kept the back door firmly locked throughout their long unbeaten start to the 2021-22 campaign.

Napoli have managed just a single clean sheet from their last six outings in all competitions, and will face one of Europe's top-scoring sides on Saturday.

Following a fourth straight Serie A win in midweek, Atalanta secured not only their place among the league's top four, but also as Italy's most in-form side of the past few weeks.

Hot on the heels of a hard-earned victory over Juventus on Saturday - their first win against the Bianconeri in Turin for more than 30 years - La Dea went on to crush Venezia 4-0 in midweek, with a Mario Pasalic hat-trick helping secure his place as one of Europe's most productive midfielders this season.

An impressive tally of 22 goals from their last nine outings at home and abroad continues a spectacular calendar-year showing in front of goal for the Bergamaschi, who are second only to Bayern Munich in terms of domestic strikes registered throughout 2021.

Furthermore, the man who has masterminded Atalanta's incredible growth from provincial underdogs to Champions League regulars, Gian Piero Gasperini, this week signed a new contract until 2024, with the option to extend it by a further year. The much-admired coach's previous deal was set to expire at the end of the current campaign, so the Nerazzurri faithful will be delighted he can continue the good work which first started when he took over back in 2016.

After over 250 games on the Atalanta bench, 'Gasp' has led his team back into the Scudetto hunt over the past couple of months, and they have also set up a decisive Champions League showdown with Villarreal back in Bergamo next week.

Unbeaten in nine altogether, they now meet Napoli in the kind of form that helped them to a spectacular 4-2 victory the last time the two clubs met, in the fourth of four absorbing encounters last term.

Napoli Serie A form:
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • D

Napoli form (all competitions):
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • D

Atalanta BC Serie A form:
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

Atalanta BC form (all competitions):
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W

Team News

Despite the quick turnaround between fixtures and a disappointing climax to Wednesday's match, Napoli are unlikely to make many changes to their starting XI this weekend.

However, defensive mainstay Kalidou Koulibaly has been ruled out until 2022 with a hamstring injury sustained at Sassuolo, while both Lorenzo Insigne and Fabian Ruiz are major doubts due to injuries picked up in the same game.

Diego Demme should come into the midfield as cover for Ruiz, while veteran forward Dries Mertens is set to continue in place of long-term injury victim Victor Osimhen up front.

Having summarily dealt with Venezia despite making a series of changes from the side that beat Juventus last week, Atalanta will return to a more familiar lineup in Naples. Only Robin Gosens and Matteo Lovato are set to miss out through injury.

Hans Hateboer finally made it back into the first team on Tuesday, but faces stiff competition from Joakim Maehle for a start, while captain Rafael Toloi and the midfield duo of Marten de Roon and Remo Freuler should also feature from the first whistle.

In attack, meanwhile, Duvan Zapata is favourite to take over from Colombian compatriot Luis Muriel as the away side's central striker.

Napoli possible starting lineup:
Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Jesus, Rui; Demme, Lobotka, Zielinski; Lozano, Mertens, Politano

Atalanta BC possible starting lineup:
Musso; Toloi, Demiral, Djimsiti; Zappacosta, Freuler, De Roon, Maehle; Malinovskyi, Pasalic; Zapata

We say: Napoli 2-2 Atalanta BC

While both sides possess the firepower to blow away all-comers when in top gear, something must give when two of Serie A's great entertainers meet in Naples.

Undoubtedly, form is in Atalanta's favour ahead of the match, but Napoli's proud record at Stadio Maradona this year can help the league leaders overcome some significant absences through the spine of their team.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:data

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