Serie A Round 28: Roma – Napoli Preview and Expected Lineups

In Round 28 of Serie A, the Italian football fans are in for a treat as Roma welcome Napoli at the Stadio Olimpico in a crucial battle for the Champions League spots.

In midweek, Roma were involved in European action as they took on Shakhtar Donetsk in the second leg of the Europa League Round of 16. After a scintillating 3-0 win in the first leg, Paulo Fonseca’s men were already one foot in the Quarter Finals, and a 2-1 win in the away leg made it official. In contrast, Napoli had a week off after a hard-fought win over Milan last Sunday.

Roma – Napoli

Serie A Round 28
Sunday, 21 March 2021
Kick-off at 20:45 (CET)
Stadio Olimpico (Rome)

Recent Form – Roma

Roma have been one of the better performers during the month of March, having won 4 out of the last 5 matches in all competitions. Two wins of the possible three in Serie A and two victories against Shakhtar in the Round of 16 of the Europa League have placed the Giallorossi in a favorable position both domestically and in Europe. Concerning the domestic form, Roma are currently sitting in 6th place with 50 points, just two behind fourth-placed Atalanta.

Although Roma have been doing tremendously well over the last three weeks, their only defeat this month came against Parma last weekend. It was an unexpected loss by all accounts, as Roma were solidly outplaying their opponents for the majority of the game. Against Parma, Fonseca’s men had 59% possession and attempted 21 shots in total, of which 6 hit the target (29% shooting accuracy). However, despite their dominance, the latter statistical point explains the reason why the Giallorossi were unexpectedly beaten on the day. Roma finished the game with 1.67 expected goals (xG), which was 0.41 xG short of Parma’s 2.08, including their penalty goal.

Despite Roma’s struggles in front of goal against Parma, the Giallorossi are one of the better attacking teams in Serie A this season, having scored 51 goals (avg. 1.89 per game), making it the fifth-best result among all teams. In fact, what is even more impressive about Roma’s attack is their non-penalty expected goals (npxG) record, which is the third-best in the league at the moment of writing, set at 48.2. It can be supported by the fact that Fonseca’s men create the fifth-highest number of goal actions per 90 minutes (3.26).

Team News and Predicted Lineups – Roma

Roma have been less fortunate with injuries over the recent weeks, with some of the key players missing for the Giallorossi. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Chris Smalling and Jordan Veretout are the obvious names who would definitely make Fonseca’s starting eleven this Sunday. Consequently, Amadou Diawara, Stephan El Shaarawy and Bryan Cristante are likely to step in place of their injured teammates.

Expected Starting XI (3-4-2-1): Pau Lopez; Mancini, Cristante, Ibanez; Karsdorp, Villar, Diawara, Spinazzola; Pellegrini, El Shaarawy; Dzeko

Unavailable: Bruno Peres (disciplinary); Smalling (thigh injury); Mkhitaryan (calf injury); Jesus (COVID); Veretout (hamstring injury); Zaniolo (ACL injury)

Recent Form – Napoli

Although this season Napoli are not the team we have all been accustomed to when Maurizio Sarri was in charge back in the days, the Azzurri have been showing signs of a resurgence over the last three weeks. After suffering four defeats in February, Napoli have won 4 of the last 5 matches in all competitions since then. Gennaro Gattuso’s men are currently sitting in 5th place in the Serie A standings level on points with their Sunday opponents Roma (50 pts), though Napoli do have a game in hand.

Napoli’s most recent Serie A win came against Milan last Sunday, which has placed Gattuso’s men within a reaching distance of the top four. Although Napoli did not dominate the game, they did just enough to get a winning goal and defended solidly throughout the whole 90 minutes. The Azzurri had 15 attempts on goal and created only one big goal-scoring opportunity, which turned out to be Matteo Politano’s right-footed effort into the left bottom corner of the net. Napoli finished the game with 0.98 xG in comparison to Milan’s 1.12.

Although not as pretty on the eye as they used to be in the past, Napoli are still one of the most potent attacking forces in the Serie A this season. They lead the way for the highest number of shot-creating actions per 90 minutes in the league with 26.96, leaving Atalanta behind in second place with 26.78, and are the fourth-best team for goal-creating actions per 90 with 3.58.

Team News and Predicted Lineups – Napoli

After a solid performance against Milan, Gattuso is expected to stick to his winning team for a trip to Rome. Giovanni Di Lorenzo will miss the game due to disciplinary reasons, with Mario Rui expected to slot in at left-back, while Elseid Hysaj should move over to the right side.

Expected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Ospina; Hysaj, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Mario Rui; Demme, Fabian Ruiz; Politano, Zielinski, Insigne; Mertens

Unavailable: Di Lorenzo (disciplinary); Lobotka (virus); Rrahmani (muscle injury); Ghoulam (knee injury); Petagna (muscle injury)

Roma vs Napoli – Previous Meetings

This will be the 160th meeting between the two sides, with Roma taking a slight edge over Napoli. Overall, Roma have been on the winning side on 58 occasions (36.5% win ratio), whilst the Azzurri have won in 48 head-to-head meetings (30.2% win ratio).

Looking at the most recent history, Napoli have won 3 of the last 4 matches against Roma, with the most recent victory recorded back in November 2020 when Gattuso’s men crashed the Giallorossi 4-0.


Sunday’s clash between Roma and Napoli can be described as a mini final, with both teams in a full race to finish in the top four. However, Napoli are expected to come into this game in better physical condition, with no European football in midweek, and perhaps should be considered slight favorites to extended their winning run on Sunday.