There are many storylines as Roma hosts Napoli on Sunday, including Napoli flying high on both the Serie A table and Champions League, Roma's continued struggles in front of goal, Napoli remaining unbeaten against Roma in their last eight fixtures, and the Giallorossi's underwhelming performance against fellow top four competitors.
I'm sure more could be added to that list, but no matter which way you slice it, they all make Napoli the favorite in this match. Of course, José Mourinho has never lost a head-to-head in six meetings with Spalletti, so Roma has that going for themselves.
Nevertheless, no matter how good of a game plan The Special One can come up with to try and outfox his Tuscan counterpart, this match plays out will ultimately come down to the players on the pitch.
So, with that in mind, we come at you with four picks to click if Roma is going to find a way to get a result against the league leaders.
Picks to Click: Roma vs. Napoli
Zaniolo has struggled in front of goal this season and recently saw his Europa League red card suspension extended to three matches. But, despite the negative vibes being thrown Zaniolo's way, his manager came to his defense on Saturday. And that support could be crucial in Zaniolo finding his best form, which is game-breaking when he's on top of his game.
There's no better time than Sunday for Zaniolo to make an impact. With Roma likely playing on the counter, Zaniolo's pace and physicality could give the Napoli defense headaches. If he's wearing his shooting boots and can put the big misses plaguing him out of his mind, he could punish the Partenopei and be the catalyst for a Roma victory.
Roma will need a massive performance out of Chris Smalling to win the match. The Englishman has repeatedly proven to be a rock in the back. Meanwhile, Roger Ibañez is enjoying a breakout season playing on Smalling's left. However, Gianluca Mancini could be the key to Roma keeping Napoli's vaunted attack in check.
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Napoli's breakout star, will be attacking the ride side of Roma's defense. While Mancini has been solid for the Giallorossi this season, he's managed to clean up his game (just two bookings compared to 16 at this same point last year) while remaining physically imposing. If Mancini can ruffle Kvaratskhelia's feathers enough without getting booked, perhaps Roma can do what others have struggled to do and keep the Georgian in check.
Recently, the Roma captain has played more like a third center midfielder than an attacking mid, helping to balance the Giallorossi midfield. It'll likely be the same tomorrow with two of Bryan Cristante, Nemanja Matic, and Mady Camara flanking him. No matter the combination, Roma's midfield will be up against when squaring off with Piotr Zielinski, Stanislav Lobotka, and Tanguy Ndombele, so the Roma skipper will have to be on top of his game.
Defensively, Pellegrini must help pressure Napoli into mistakes and spring Roma's counters. Offensively, with Dybala out, it'll be up to Pellegrini to orchestrate Roma's attack. Whether playing in Zaniolo or Abraham on the counter or whipping in a quality corner, Pellegrini will be responsible for creating danger in the final third.
There are no ifs, and, or buts about it. Tammy Abraham has been a disappointment through Roma's first 10 matches. With just two goals, Abraham is well off the pace of the 17 he scored in his maiden Serie A season. According to sofascore, Abraham has already missed seven big chances. Couple that with the five that Zaniolo has missed, and it's easy to see why Roma has struggled in front of goal so far.
Nevertheless, much like Zaniolo, Abraham continues to have the support of his manager and is projected to start over Andrea Belotti on Sunday. A goal in this one could right a lot of the wrongs that Abraham has experienced in the 2022-2023 campaign. Not only could it springboard Roma to a huge win, but a goal could also jumpstart Abraham's season back to the trajectory we all expected it to take.
Who is your Pick to Click against Napoli?
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