This Sunday will see the Stadio San Paolo play host to the highly anticipated 125th Derby del Sole, as Napoli go head-to-head with rivals Roma.
The Ciucciarelli’s recent record against Roma does not make for good reading, winning just once in the previous six encounters, in a 1-0 victory coming over a decade ago. However, with the Blues currently fifth and three points ahead of their rivals, they will see this as the perfect opportunity to end that barren run. The Portonopei’s home form this term has been devastating, dropping points in just the draw with Cagliari in Week 13, and they have already claimed notable scalps at the Stadio San Paolo, including that of title-chasing Juventus.
This prestigious fixture first took place in the 1929/30 season and ended in a 2-2 draw. Since then Roma have edged proceedings, boasting 45 wins as opposed to the Ciucciarelli’s 39, with 41 ending in a tie. The meetings were given a sense of extra importance in the late Eighties after Napoli’s spell of dominance saw them win two Serie A titles as well as the UEFA Cup.
Azzurri fans will fondly remember a pulsating 3-1 victory against the Giallorossi in the 1989/90 Derby del Sole, on the way to claiming their second and last Serie A title. In a Napoli side containing the devastating partnership of Diego Maradona and Careca in attack, their tifosi were treated to a breathtaking display of attacking football. The legendary Argentine star managed to get on the score sheet, bagging two penalties in the space of 15 second half minutes to set the home side on their way. Brazilian Careca made sure of the result, squeezing the ball past Roma keeper Giovanni Cervone from an almost impossible angle. This proved to be Maradona’s penultimate season at the San Paolo and he almost claimed his hat-trick with an audacious overhead kick.
Roma also boasted a world-class star of their own, with German legend Rudi Voeller leading the attack. However, their solitary goal came courtesy of a blistering free kick from full back Sebastiano Nela. Ironically Nela left i Lupi for Napoli just two seasons later, making 34 appearances for the Blues in a two-season spell.
The Giallorossi have enjoyed the better of recent results between the two sides and have now gone eight games without defeat, in a run stretching back to the 1996/97 season. This impressive form was evident in last season’s corresponding fixture, which saw Giallorossi continue their derby run with a 0-2 victory over Ciucciarelli at the San Paolo.
Luciano Spalletti’s side took the lead with an early goal from playmaker Simone Perrotta. La Magica’s class shone through and they subsequently scored a second through a Francesco Totti penalty shortly after the break. Napoli were unable to find a way past a resolute Roma defence containing the likes of Philippe Mexes and Christian Panucci.and I Lupi ran out easy victors.
If anyone doubted the unpredictability of this derby fixture, they need look no further than the 1950s and 1960s. During this twenty-year period, the Giallorossi recorded just the single win at the Stadio San Paolo in 1956/57, and despite finishing as Serie A runners-up in 1954/55 and scoring goals aplenty in the reverse fixture – including a 8-0 demolition – the fixture in Naples was dominated by the home side. Roma failed to score in 11 of the meetings during this time that witnessed eight home victories and seven draws from 16 games. The first half of the 1950s also produced five 0-0 draws in the first seven encounters, however the latter half of this period proved far more eventful, with 29 goals in ten meetings.
If Roma are to continue their revival under coach Spalletti they will have to do it without the help of their loyal tifosi, who have been banned from the fixture by Italian authorities after the fixture was ruled as high risk. The Giallorossi will be hoping to leave Naples with a positive result as they attempt to chase the leading quartet and qualify for next season’s Champions League. However, Napoli have been the surprise package in Serie A this season and Coach Edoardo Reja will look for his side to build on their fine home form as they chase European aspirations of their own.
One thing’s for sure, it promises to be a mouth watering anniversary derby and with both sides in the top half of Serie A, one that will no doubt conjure up the same intense drama and anticipation next year.