March 8th, 2014

Napoli vs. Roma, Part II

By: Neil | Comments 21 Comments

For the second time in a few weeks Napoli must beat Roma at the San Paolo. This time league position is at stake, and a draw won’t be good enough for Napoli. In the first half of the season six points is small or even very small, but in Week 27 it’s significant. And then there’s Roma’s game in hand – even if Napoli win and cut the deficit to three points, it could go back to six if Roma win their game in hand (a home match against Parma if I’m not mistaken.) Higuain and Albiol return to the lineup after missing out last week because of yellow card accumulation – incredibly both managed to get booked against Genoa to make sure they weren’t at risk of missing Roma.
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March 2nd, 2014

Livorno vs. Napoli

By: Neil | Comments 46 Comments

Jose Maria Callejon is being tipped to start as prima punta in place of the suspended Higuain, while Henrique is likely to take Albiol’s place in defence. Mertens should start on the right wing, with Insigne holding his left wing place and Hamsik or Pandev in the middle. Livorno are counting on a large chunk of on loan players to keep them in Serie A one more year, including Francesco Bardi, Innocent Emeghara, and Alfred Duncan. Expect this to be a classic big vs. small matchup with Napoli doing the bulk of the attacking looking for a couple of goals.
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February 27th, 2014

Napoli vs. Swansea City

By: Neil | Comments 28 Comments

A spot in the next round against Porto or Eintracht Frankfurt awaits if Napoli can win. The first leg ended 2-2 in Porto giving Frankfurt a real good chance to upset the Portuguese giants. You’d have to consider Napoli strong favourites for this one. They beat Arsenal 2-0 when they needed a home win to stay in the Champions League, and they beat Roma 3-0 when they needed a home win to stay in the Coppa Italia. I’m going to be optimistic and say that Napoli will win this one while shutting out a Swansea team missing Michu. There’s still the concern about Napoli’s sometimes fragile defence, which isn’t helped by protection from the midfield. I still think Napoli need to play with three centre mids when protecting a lead late in games. But that is another topic. For now, we turn to the San Paolo and some exciting European calcio.
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February 24th, 2014

Napoli vs. Genoa

By: Neil | Comments 25 Comments

Look for Benitez to start all of the big players for this nighttime Serie A clash. Genoa have two players, Gilardino and Perin, who could feature in Italy’s World Cup squad. I’m hoping Gilardino makes it, as I’ve always been a fan of his since he burst onto the scene at Parma in 2000. He shouldn’t be starting for Italy, but if they find themselves desperate for a goal he’s the kind of player you’d want to throw out there with the clock winding down. Perin could make Italy as 3rd choice keeper as reports out of Paris indicate Sirigu is struggling despite PSG’s march to the Ligue 1 title. I’m expecting Napoli to win this game despite Genoa having two players who can make a big difference in the goals scored/goals conceded categories.
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February 20th, 2014

Swansea City vs. Napoli

By: Neil | Comments 28 Comments

The Europa League receives a lot of criticism, but it has some value no matter how big or small a team is. If Napoli want to make deeper runs in the Champions League in future years, this is good preparation. There were whispers that Benitez was going to rest a lot of key players for the league match against Genoa on Monday, but I hope he fields a relatively strong lineup. Fernandez is suspended, Reina might be given more time to recuperate, and Jorginho is not in the Europa League squad. Other than that, expect Napoli to field a strong attacking lineup as away goals come in handy, as we saw in the Coppa Italia semi-final.
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February 15th, 2014

Sassuolo vs. Napoli

By: Neil | Comments 19 Comments

The strange part about this one is seeing Napoli play against Paolo Cannavaro… we’ve seen Canna so many times before, but this time he will be shutting down Napoli forwards instead of the opposition. Cannavaro has started two Serie A games for Sassuolo, and they’ve lost both by a single goal. Sassuolo also have a new manger since they earned an unlikely 1-1 draw at the San Paolo. Francesco Di Eusebio has been replaced by Alberto Malesani, who has bounced around after making a name for himself at Parma in the late 90’s.
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February 12th, 2014

Napoli vs. Roma

By: Neil | Comments 17 Comments

Fiorentina waits in the final… can Napoli turn around a 1st leg deficit to book their place as well?
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February 8th, 2014

Napoli vs AC Milan

By: Neil | Comments 20 Comments

Shortly after Clarence Seedorf’s appointment as Milan manager, I had a conversation with a knowledgeable friend about clubs bringing back legendary players as managers (usually but not always in times of need.) It just doesn’t work as well as you might think. AC Milan already tried it with Leonardo, who lasted just one season as manager before the club realized there was someone better out there. Of course, it’s difficult to predict the few success stories for club heroes turned managers. There’s always the possibility that Seedorf will be the exception, but I was actually happy that Milan went with Seedorf and not someone more experienced. Milan will no doubt improve with Seedorf — they can’t do any worse than the current 10th place, can they — but my gut tells me it will take a while before AC Milan can be the force it was for most of the 2000’s.
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February 1st, 2014

Atalanta vs. Napoli

By: Neil | Comments 56 Comments

Napoli begin a stretch of 8 matches in 28 days with a trip to Lombardia and a stadium where they haven’t won too often since being promoted in 2007. In fact, there’s just one win in the last six years, a 2-0 victory in 2009-10. Benitez’s lineup should be unpredictable, as just three days later the Partenopei have the 1st leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final against Roma at the Stadio Olimpico. (How did Napoli get home matches against both Atalanta and Lazio in the earlier rounds, plus 2nd leg at home in the semis?) Either way Fiorentina dropped points away to Cagliari, and Juve and Roma have tricky home contests against Inter and Parma respectively. There’s a small chance Napoli could gain points on one or both of the top two clubs with a win.
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January 27th, 2014

One Cursed Month

By: Neil | Comments 32 Comments

Napoli had a forgettable January last year… and this year is proving to be no different. New manager, new players, new mentality, and yet the January results are disappointing. I was ticked after the draw with Chievo. Normally I allow for the odd slip up against smaller teams, but Napoli needed a win after using up a few of their mulligans earlier in 2012/13. Even though there are some injuries, there are no excuses. Napoli has struggled in January both at the San Paolo and on the road, against bigger teams and smaller teams, with short rest and with plenty of rest. I really don’t know what the answer is, but I don’t think it’s time to start questioning the bigger picture. Last year we did not have a great Champions League run, and we lost in the Coppa at the first hurdle. Providing we play better in the Coppa against Lazio on Wednesday, there’s still a lot to look forward to.
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