Two clubs with pretensions of a top three finish meet on Sunday (7.45pm GMT) when Napoli entertain Roma at the Stadio San Paolo.
Napoli have enjoyed a solid first half of the season and are fifth in Serie A after recording 11 wins, three draws and four defeats from their 18 matches to date.
The Partenopei snapped a four match losing streak in all competitions with a 2-0 victory away to Siena before the winter break, two goals in the last five minutes from Christian Maggio and Edinson Cavani taking them to a hard-fought three points.
It was a result that would, under normal circumstances, have moved them above Fiorentina and Lazio into second in the table. But just prior to that match, Napoli were deducted two points and had their club captain, Paolo Cannavaro, and vice-captain Gianluca Grava banned for six months for failing to report attempted match fixing.
There is still more than half of the Serie A season left to play and therefore plenty of time for Napoli to make light of their penalty. At the same time two points could easily, as it is now, be the difference between qualifying for the Champions League or not.
Despite the suspensions of Cannavaro and Grava, Napoli have allowed experienced central defender Salvatore Aronica to join Palermo. It will therefore be Miguel Britos, Hugo Campagnaro and Alessandro Gamberini who make up the three-man defence on Sunday, as they did in the victory over Siena.
Further up the pitch, the emergence of exciting youngster Lorenzo Insigne and continued solid performances from Goran Pandev have allowed Napoli to continue relatively unharmed from the summer loss of Ezequiel Lavezzi to Paris Saint-Germain.
Insigne suffered from the flu virus over the Christmas period and was unable to train with the group on Thursday, putting Pandev in pole position to partner Cavani up front on Sunday.
Cavani has been as prolific as ever this season, scoring 15 goals in 17 appearances to date, and will fancy his chances of adding to his tally against a Roma side who have one of the worst defensive records in Serie A.
Of course, defending is never the primary focus of the work of Roma’s Czech coach Zdenek Zeman, whose attack minded methodology prioritises offensive incision over defensive stability. Roma may have conceded 29 times, but they have also scored 42, making them the highest scoring team in the division.
The Giallorossi are sixth in the table with 32 points from 10 wins, two draws and six defeats, just three points off third place Fiorentina and two behind their hosts on Sunday.
Roma are in the midst of an excellent run of form that has seen them win five of their last six matches in Serie A. They were majestic in defeating AC Milan 4-2 in their final match before the festive break, slicing through the away defence at will to race into a 3-0 lead within the first half hour.
The forward three of Erik Lamela, Francesco Totti and Pablo Osvaldo combined superbly, while the aggressive pressing of the midfield was also an impressive sight, and led directly to the third goal, scored by Lamela.
It was Lamela’s ninth goal of the campaign and he added his 10th just after the hour mark.
With an exquisite touch and a coolness in front of goal that belies his tender years, Lamela has revelled in a more offensively minded set up and will surely soon receive a deserved call up to the Argentinian national team.
Osvaldo missed the club’s brief winter training camp in Florida due to a virus and may only be in sufficient condition to make the bench on Sunday. That being the case, the Roma front three will most likely be formed of Lamela, Totti – who has shaken off a knock – and Matteo Destro.
Michael Bradley will probably retain his place in midfield ahead of Alessandro Florenzi after performing well against Milan, while Leandro Castan will step into the centre of defence to deputise for the suspended Marquinhos.
Napoli v Roma Betting Tips
Napoli have only lost once at home this season, but that total is in danger of being doubled on Sunday by a Roma side whose quality in attack could well be too much for a home defence weakened by the long-term suspension of their captain and organiser Cannavaro.
Napoli will themselves be confident of finding the back of the net against an oft-porous Roma defence, but with Lamela and Totti in good form we feel it will be the away side who emerge victorious from a high-scoring encounter.