19:30 BST, Saturday 18 August, Stadio Olimpico (Rome), Eleven Sports
Lazio host Napoli at Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Saturday night with both sides looking to make a statement of intent.
Last season ended in heartbreak for the Romans as Inter snatched a Champions League place from their grasp in the final act of the campaign. A place in the Europa League provided consolation.
Felipe Anderson, Stefan de Vrij and Federico Marchetti all departed in the summer while an assortment of arrivals should mean a new-look XI for Simone Inzaghi. For now, though, the club has retained the services of midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic which is a huge positive.
Napoli’s season also ended on a downbeat note as their Scudetto challenge petered out during the final matches. Maurizio Sarri departed soon after and the club plumped for Carlo Ancelotti as a replacement.
Ancelotti’s arrival will mean a change of style for the Neapolitans and that could impact their form in the early stage of the campaign.
Last Time Out
Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Lazio (Friendly)
Lazio ended their summer tour with a 1-0 defeat to German side Borussia Dortmund in Essen.
The game provided a good test for the Aquile ahead of their league opener on Saturday. The key moment came in the sixth minute when Radu deflected Reus’ shot into his own net.
Ciro Immobile tried to strike back soon after but could not apply the finish against his former club. This pattern continued as both sides squandered chances to animate the scorekeepers.
New signing, Joaquin Correa, was one of nine players introduced in the second half as fitness took priority over the result.
Wolfsburg 3-1 Napoli (Friendly)
Four days after beating Borussia Dortmund in St. Gallen, Napoli rounded off their pre-season schedule with a 3-1 defeat at Wolfsburg.
Brekalo broke the deadlock in the 43rd minute to give the hosts the advantage at the break. It stayed that way until the 69th minute when Arkadiusz Milik converted the third of three good chances that fell his way to even the scores, Mario Rui providing the assist.
It took just two minutes for the hosts to respond as a brace in the space of three minutes for Mehmedi - both assisted by Daniel Ginczek - gave Wolfsburg an unassailable advantage.
Reports have linked Sergej Milinkovic-Savic with a move away all summer but, as til now, Lazio have resisted approaches for their star midfielder. His inclusion in this weekend’s XI would be a welcome sight for Laziali.
Lucas Leiva, Senad Lulic and Patric are all suspended while Valon Berisha and Jordan Lukaku are both injured.
New signings Riza Durmisi and Milan Badelj should feature however former Sevilla midfielder Joaquin Correa might have to be content with a place on the bench.
The big question for Napoli is whether Marek Hamsik will start.
A midfield three of Allan, Diawara and Fabian looks strongest on paper but Ancelotti may field the club Captain for this opener as he continues his development in a deeper role.
The veteran coach has used different formations during pre-season but is likely to go with a 4-3-3 setup here with Milik leading the line. However, a Milik and Mertens partnership will also be an option going forward.
Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina arrived on a one-year loan deal on Wednesday and could make his debut.
Key Battle: Ciro Immobile (Lazio) vs David Ospina (Napoli)
Alex Meret's injury could mean a debut for David Ospina.
If he gets the nod in goal, his first task will be to face down last season’s joint-winner of the Capocannoniere title.
The Arsenal man will be keen to impress having made just 29 Premier League appearances over the last four years in London. The Italians have an option to buy when his loan expires.
Ciro Immobile’s resurgence since his dark days in Dortmund has been remarkable.
Since arriving at Lazio he has scored 67 goal in 88 starts in all competitions and ended last season with a remarkable tally of 41 from 47 appearances.
His continued good form will be crucial to the Romans this term.
Can Ancelotti orchestrate another title challenge for Napoli?
While other clubs in the top six have kept their coaches, Maurizio Sarri’s departure forced Napoli’s hand. Fortunately, one of Italy’s most experienced and successful coaches was available.
Carlo Ancelotti is an excellent choice for Napoli but he faces a challenge maintaining the momentum that kept them in the title race last term.
Implementing his own vision and integrating some new faces may take time and that could mean a step back for the Partenopei.
This is the first time in years the Italian has joined a club that has not won a league title in recent history. It could be his biggest challenge yet.
Prediction: Lazio 2-2 Napoli
Lazio have not won at home to Napoli in six years but this fixture has a history of producing excitement and goals.
Both sides were unconvincing in pre-season and with Napoli adjusting to a change of system, an even contest should be expected.
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