Serie A Round 12: Inter – Napoli Preview and Expected Lineups

We are only a couple of weeks away from the busiest time of the year, meaning that the league schedule gets extremely congested with teams approaching the festive period. In Round 12 of Serie A, the Italian football fans have been handed an early Christmas gift, as Inter welcome Napoli at Stadio San Siro on Wednesday night.

Both teams come into this game after successful performances on the weekend. On Sunday, Inter came away 3-1 winner against Cagliari, while Napoli edged past Sampdoria in a tight encounter at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.

The Cult of Calcio is here to preview the key battle of Round 12, with an eye on the potential starting lineups of both teams.

Inter – Napoli

Serie A Round 12
Wednesday, 16 December 2020
Kick-off at 20:45 (CET)
Stadio San Siro (Milan)

Recent form – Inter

After the fourth consecutive domestic win last weekend, Inter remain second in the Serie A league standings, only three points behind the high-flying cross-city rivals Milan. As mentioned, the Nerazzurri claimed three more precious points against Cagliari despite being a goal down for 77 minutes. Nicolò Barella initiated Inter’s comeback, with Danilo D’Ambrosio and Romelu Lukaku adding another two which made it look like a comfortable win in the end.

Indeed, Conte’s side were deserved winners as suggested by key performance metrics. The Nerazzurri had 58% of the ball and attempted 21 shots (11 on target), which resulted in 4 big chances created (2 missed). Overall, Inter finished the game with an xG (expected goals) of 2.89, in comparison to Cagliari’s 1.52, which correctly reflected the action on the pitch.

Inter’s fine domestic form is no accident, as they continue putting the ball into the back of the opposition’s net like no other Serie A team. Conte’s men have scored an astonishing 13 goals in the last 4 league matches, averaging over 3 goals per game. Their combined four-match xG was 9.98, which indicates an over-performance but to a lesser extent. Additionally, Inter are the highest-scoring team in the Serie A (29 goals), averaging 2.6 goals per game, and have the second-best goals per shot on target ratio (0.41). Nonetheless, despite Inter’s presumably clinical nature in front of goal, their general over-performance is notable. So far this season, the Nerazzurri have recorded an npxG (non-penalty expected goals) of 24.21 (second-best in Serie A), which is almost 5 goals fewer than their actual goals scored.

Team News and Predicted Lineup – Inter

Inter remain one of only few Serie A teams that have been fairly injury-free so far this season. Arturo Vidal and Matias Vecino are the only guaranteed absentees for Wednesday’s game, with Achraf Hakimi a doubt after being substituted off in the 83rd minute against Cagliari despite coming on the pitch only at half-time.

Conte will most likely stick to his well-drilled 3-5-2 tactical set-up, with Lautaro Martinez potentially replacing Alexis Sanchez in the starting lineup.

Expected Starting XI (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, de Vrij, Bastoni; Darmian; Brozovic, Barella, Gagliardini, Young; Lautaro Martinez, Lukaku

Unavailable: Vidal (muscle injury), Vecino (knee injury), Hakimi (doubtful)

Recent Form – Napoli

Since a 3-1 loss against Milan almost a month ago, Napoli’s domestic form has experienced a steep improvement. After three consecutive league wins, Gennaro Gattuso’s men have climbed up to third place in the standings, currently sitting only a point behind Inter. As outlined before, Napoli came away 2-1 winner in the last league game against Sampdoria, with Hirving Lozano and Andrea Petagna getting on the scoresheet.

As suggested by key match statistics, Napoli were on top of the game for the majority of 90 minutes, having controlled the ball for 67% of the time, which resulted in 18 shots and 3 big chances created. More impressively, Napoli showed their clinical nature in front of Sampdoria’s goal by converting 2 out of 3 big scoring opportunities they created during the 90 minutes.

Napoli’s improved shot conversion rate can be considered as the primary reason behind the more favorable match score lines. To back this up, we look at Napoli’s xG statistics of the last three matches. Gattuso’s side came away winners in all three of them, having scored an impressive 10 goals. However, their combined xG in matches against Roma, Crotone and Sampdoria was only 5.52, implying that Napoli managed to score from less favorable shooting positions. In contrast, Napoli’s last two defeats in the league against Sassuolo (Napoli xG 2.14) and Milan (Napoli xG 1.88) are the perfect examples of their previous struggles of converting chances despite creating enough of them to come away with a victory.

Team News and Predicted Lineup – Napoli

Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen remains sidelined and will not travel to Milan on Wednesday night. The rest of the team looks fit, providing Gattuso with plenty of options ahead of this massive game. It includes the likes of David Ospina, Mario Rui, Tiemoué Bakayoko and Hirving Lozano, who were all rested in a game against Sampdoria and seem likely to take their place in the starting lineup on Wednesday night.

Expected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Koulibaly, Mario Rui; Fabian Ruiz, Bakayoko; Lozano, Zielinski, Insigne; Mertens

Unavailable: Osimhen (muscle injury), Raahmani (to be assessed), Hysaj (to be assessed)

Inter vs Napoli – Previous Meetings

This will be the 160th meeting between the two teams. So far, Inter have been the more successful of the two sides, collecting 69 wins and 49 defeats, with 41 matches ending in a draw.

Inter claimed their 69th win over Napoli back in July, as goals from Danilo D’Ambrosio and Lautaro Martinez were enough to seal all three points.


Wednesday’s clash has a true potential to be the match of the season so far, with both teams banging goals for fun recently. There is little doubt that Napoli will dominate the possession, and Inter will choose to play on the counterattack, but the key question is who will be the more clinical side in front of goal? One thing is for sure, Wednesday night will answer all our questions.