Preview and Prediction Serie A: Napoli vs Lazio Apr 8, 2015

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The Coppa Italia semi-final between Napoli and Lazio is finely poised ahead of Wednesday's second leg at the Stadio San Paolo.

The hosts hold a slim advantage having scored an away goal in March's 1-1 first-leg draw, but Lazio are in much the better form and will be optimistic of their chances.

Napoli have reached Easter in the latter stages of two cup competitions and still in the running for Champions League qualification. No wonder they are so keen to keep Rafael Benitez as their manager beyond the summer.

Speculation continues to mount over the Spaniard's future as his contract winds down. A return to the Premier League has been mooted for the former Liverpool and Chelsea boss, and he may find that too good to turn down.

In the mean time, though, he has the chance to go out with a bang. His side are in the last eight of the Europa League and favourites to progress to the final of the Coppa Italia by virtue of Manolo Gabbiadini's away goal at the Stadio Olimpico.

They have only won once of six matches since then, though, and five Serie A games without victory has seen them fall slightly off the pace in the race for a top-three finish. Lazio, eight points ahead in the table, currently occupy third.

With Benitez seemingly on his way, he may be tempted to look after himself and prioritise cup success over the league. He has already won La Liga, the FA Cup, the UEFA Cup and the Champions League, and would love to add the Coppa Italia to his resume.

That would make him an even more attractive proposition to those clubs who may be seeking a managerial change at the end of the campaign.

The Rome outfit are back among Italy's elite. They are on course for their highest Serie A finish for eight years, and are in contention for a second Coppa Italia triumph in three seasons.

While they failed to cash in on home advantage in the first leg last month, Stefano Pioli's side will be in good spirits ahead of their trip to Naples having strung together an impressive run of seven successive league wins.

This winning streak, extended at Cagliari on Saturday, has included victories over European rivals Fiorentina and Torino and has seen Lazio consolidate third place. There is now a six-point gap back to the chasing pack for the final Champions League spot.

In fact, they will now be looking upwards, hoping to usurp capital rivals Roma in second. They have not finished above their neighbours since 2010-11, and they will see that as another achievable target during the run in.

Focus now, though, will be on Wednesday. Lazio have had to overcome the likes of Torino and AC Milan en route to this stage of the competition, so, if they can add Napoli to that list, they really will have earned their spot in the final.

Benitez is expected to bring Marek Hamsik back into his starting lineup after resting him in their 1-0 defeat to Roma at the weekend. Dries Mertens and Jonathan de Guzman have served him well in cup competitions so far this season and he may reward them with starts.

Injuries to Walter Gargano and Gokhan Inler leave the hosts slightly light of midfield options, but they could return to full strength at the back now that Kalidou Koulibaly has recovered from a muscle problem.

Stefan Radu, Abdoulay Konko and Santiago Gentiletti are still absent in defence for the visitors, but Edson Braafheid returned from a knock against Cagliari to compensate and should maintain his place in the team.

With Filip Djordjevic on the sidelines, World Cup record goalscorer Miroslav Klose, who has found the net 11 times during a season which started with him celebrating his 36th birthday, remains Lazio's only recognised striking option.

Reported Premier League target Felipe Anderson and Marco Parolo will be tasked with providing the German with support.

Napoli possible starting lineup:
Andujar; Britos, Koulibaly, Albiol, Maggio; Callejon, Lopez, Hamsik, De Guzman Mertens; Higuain

Lazio possible starting lineup:
Marchetti; Mauricio, De Vrij, Basta, Braafheid; Mauri, Felipe Anderson, Parolo, Biglia, Candreva; Klose

Tag : Serie A
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