Napoli vs. LivornoBy: Neil | October 5th, 2013
Albiol and Zuniga join Maggio on the injured list, giving Napoli a depleted defence. One thing that really bothered me about the Sassuolo game was that the defence could never really hold its shape, and on Sunday it’s almost deja vu as the backups (with the exception of Britos) face a side that was playing against Serie B defences last season. I guess it’s a good test to see whether Napoli can correct some of the errors from 1.5 weeks ago. Instead of having one defender shoot forward, I’m hoping the 4 defenders can move as a unit, making small advances up the field when Napoli are attacking. This will ask less of the midfielders, who can focus more on creating offence and not on running around all over the place. Higuain is also out, leaving Pandev or Duvan up front with the Macedonian favourite to start.
With Benitez big on rotation (are you watching Mazzarri? I can’t see us losing 3-0 to Roma in a couple weeks!) Insigne might also give way to Mertens.
Reina – Mesto, Cannavaro, Britos, Armero – Dzemaili, Behrami – Callejon, Hamsik, Mertens – Pandev
Before everyone criticizes this lineup for being too weak, it’s good enough to handle Livorno at home just as a similar lineup was well equipped to defeat Sassuolo. The onus is on Benitez to have a smarter game plan, and on the players to execute it. No doubt Livorno manager Davide Nicola took notes on the draw with Sassuolo and will have the same approach. Expect Livorno to play a 3-5-2 with the two wingbacks often dropping back to make it more of a 5-3-2. Napoli should have tons of space on the wings; it’s in the centre of the field where Livorno will be overloading with players and hoping for nothing more difficult than crosses into the box.
Livorno have a trio of young players on loan from Inter who are worth watching. Keeper Francesco Bardi (of the U-21 team that lost to Spain in the final) and midfielders Marco Benassi and Alfred Duncan (19 and 20 respectively) are all expected to feature against Napoli. Another Livorno player expected to start is Napoli cast off Leandro Rinaudo, who anchors the 3 man defence just as Cannavaro has done for Napoli until this season. Surely Napoli can’t be foiled by players who couldn’t make the grade at the San Paolo? But then again, Napoli was held by tiny Sassuolo while the ten outfield Partenopei were all trying to bomb forward and get their name on the scoresheet. And that is why I would settle for a 1-0 win here, and in fact it’s the very scoreline I’m hoping to see. Nothing more and nothing less.
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