Saturday night will mean another restless weekend for top of the table Inter Milan, as they travel to Naples to fend off 2nd place Napoli from leapfrogging them. They’ll be licking their wounds from last week’s 2-1 home defeat to bitter rivals AC Milan and will be looking to claim the spoils in this title race six-pointer. Napoli will be emboldened by the Nerazzurri’s failures last week and are coming into this match on a four-game winning streak in Serie A. This is a fixture that very rarely fails to deliver, the reverse fixture saw 5 goals and 8 bookings when Inter won 3-2 at home in November. To prepare you for the best Italian football has to offer, I’ve selected my Top 3 Bet Builder Tips and a Cheat Sheet for this top of the table clash.
I covered the aforementioned Milan derby last week and my bet builder was almost a winner being let down by only one selection, Inter to win or draw. It was difficult not to feel hard done by considering Inter dominated the majority of the 90 minutes but were undone by 2 moments of class towards the end by the perennially underrated Oliver Giroud. It is important to remember that this Inter side entering this match were considered a dominant force and had not been beaten at home in 28 matches. This unbeaten streak is now bookended either side by 2 losses to bitter rivals Milan, so their bogey team aside they remain on a good run of form at this point in the season.
Their last run out at Roma in the Coppa Italia on Tuesday the 8th of February, saw them return to winning ways against top level competition with a 2-0 win at The San Siro. Their formidable form at home is also matched by their successes on the road and they have only been beaten once on their travels this season in the league. They’ve managed to score 24 goals in just 11 games away from home this season which has been a contributing factor to their highest goal difference in Serie A at +36. Napoli look to have a tough match ahead of them as Inter will be travelling with an almost full-strength squad. Notable omissions include new signing Gosens and forward Correa missing out due to injury, and Bastoni picking up a suspension after his red card last week.
Napoli will definitely fancy their chances against the betting favourites on Saturday and will be relishing the opportunity to nab top spot from their Milanese guests. They enter this match having won their last 4 Serie A outings which was precedented by a 1-1 draw at Juventus in January. In 3 of their last 4 wins, they managed to keep a clean sheet which is reassuring for fans of The Partenopei who had only seen that many in their previous 10 fixtures. Their home record of late however has been a little concerning with 3 losses suffered in their last 5 matches at The Diego Armando Maradona Stadium. There are some concerns for team selections tomorrow but nothing concrete has been confirmed with wingers Ounas and Lozano’s fitness concerns. Defensive titan Kalidou Koulibaly has returned to the setup following his triumph at AFCON with Senegal, but it is unclear whether he will feature, however, Frank Anguissa is definitely available for selection.
Mario Rui To Be Carded
The stats for this one means I’m going to have to do some convincing for you on this selection. Mario Rui is absent from the Cheat Sheet’s view because he only commits 0.87 fouls per game. However, he is Napoli’s most booked player this season with 6 yellows to his name. Napoli have kept their noses cleaner than anyone else in the league this season with only 1.58 cards per game this season with Inter just behind them at 1.91. The referee in charge of the action tomorrow doesn’t make promising reading either considering he is the 2nd least card happy ref in the league this season.
You will be questioning now why I am talking as if Mario Rui won’t get booked tomorrow! But I believe even with all these stats to keep you well informed, he is the most likely player to get booked for the following reasons. He’s started 21 games this season on the left of a back 4 only beaten for starting appearances by his teammate on the opposite flank Di Lorenzo. This means he’ll be a guaranteed starter against flying Dutchman Denzel Dumfries who will be getting forward at any available opportunity. Inter’s width in a back 5 has caused traditional 4-man defensive units havoc this season, Dumfries has accrued 2.17 fouls per game this season and is often found in dangerous areas in the box registering 1.04 shots on target per game. The game last week is a case study for why Rui is in trouble here as he enraged his opposition full-back Theo Hernandez to the point of an eventual red card. He was abusing, kicking, and fouling Dumfries all game in what was a frustrating night for the Frenchman due to Dumfries ability to find space in behind.
Mario Rui is not blessed with the same speed as the Frenchman, and Inter’s wide attacking style means he will be chasing shadows down the wing all night. Dumfries ability to frustrate opposition full-backs spells trouble for the badly behaving Portuguese. It’s also worth noting that Inter’s strikers also draw over 2 fouls a game, Sanchez and Martinez are likely to drift wide in attacking phases and be involved in 1 on 1s with the fullback alongside Dumfries. My final piece of reasoning lies in Mario Rui’s low number of fouls. Compared to his number of yellow cards it is surprising that he commits so little fouls, but the answer lies in the severity of his fouls. Basically, when Mario Rui makes a foul, it’s so bad that he’s going to end up in the book and this includes offences happening off the ball. He’s amassed 55 yellows in 228 games since 2014 which averages out to a yellow once every 4 games and I think it will be 56 by the end of play tomorrow. His slim patience will be tested tomorrow in a highly contested clash that saw 8 yellows last time out, so he’s my selection for a booking tomorrow with odds of 2.4.
Prediction: Mario Rui to be Carded
Lautaro Martinez 1+ Shots On Target
Lautaro Martinez has been catching the eyes of other European big fish since his move from Racing Club in 2018. He’s been a star performer for The Nerazzurri and has racked up 48 goals in 121 league games since linking up with them. His formidable partnership he formed with Romelu Lukaku in their Scudetto win last season hasn’t slowed him down and he is their top scorer in the league this season with 11 goals from 21 league games. Alexis Sanchez’s performance against Roma in the cup will put him into contention for a starting spot tomorrow alongside the Argentinian but he will face competition from veteran goal scorer Edin Dzeko. These two will compete for a starring role alongside Martinez who is a guaranteed starter for tomorrow’s game.
Martinez is no stranger to finding the target as well as the net, he’s managed to produce an eyewatering 1.54 shots on target per game this season. This places him as the player with the highest propensity to hit the target this season between both teams! He also attempts an impressive 3.92 shots per game which indicates the Argentinian’s willingness to shoot in any form of goalscoring position. The majority of these efforts come from inside the penalty box however 12 of 62 of his shots have come from outside the box this season. This shows he is not just a penalty box striker that relies on his team playing well to hit the target and score goals. Napoli are a hard to team to get past this season and have the highest rate of clean sheets with 54% of their matches successfully defended. This means that Martinez’s trickiness and shooting propensity will be essential to get a sight on goal and he looks great odds at 1.29 on Paddy Power.
Prediction: Lautaro Martinez 1+ Shot on Target
Under 9.5 Corners
It’s always a bit stressful choosing an under selection in a bet builder. Instead of willing something to happen like a goal, you’re praying that the ball is passed aimlessly across the midfield for the full 90 minutes. However, with this selection I think the threshold is high enough that we won’t be sweating in the last 15 minutes.
Napoli and Inter have two of the highest rates of corners for them in the league at 6.22 and 5.38. However, I believe this stat is misleading as these high rates of corners are gained when playing inferior opposition compared to Saturdays. Napoli’s last outing at Venezia saw them manage to pick up 6 corners and when Inter played the same team in their 2nd last game they also managed to pick up 6! This level playing field is likely to result in less dominance for both when picking up corners as they will be defending their own goal the same amount as attacking their opposition.
The last time these teams met in November there were only 5 corners, which highlights that there is a dip when top teams meet. Their ability to accrue corners is matched by their ability not to concede them. They have some of the lowest corner rates against them from opposition teams with Inter conceding just 3.70 per game and Napoli even lower at 3.50. I’m predicting a fire meets fire result here, where we will see a similar number of corners as last time out. Under 9.5 corners is available for odds of 1.8 on Paddy Power.
Prediction: Under 9.5 Corners
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Napoli predicted XI (4-2-3-1) : Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Jesus, Rui; Lobotka, Ruiz; Politano, Zielinski, Insigne; Osimhen
Inter Milan predicted XI (3-5-2) : Handanović; Škriniar, De Vrij, D’Ambrosio; Dumfries, Barella, Brozović, Çalhanoğlu, Perišić; Džeko, Martínez.
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* All odds displayed correct at the time of publishing *
How to watch Napoli v Inter in the Serie A
📅 When is Napoli v Inter Milan? / Saturday, 12th February 2022, 17:00
🏟 Where is Napoli v Inter Milan? / Diego Armando Maradona Stadium (Naples)
📺 What TV channel is Napoli v Inter Milan on? / BT Sport 2
🟨 …And who is the referee for Napoli v Inter Milan? / D. Doveri 🇮🇹