Napoli host Inter on the back of a comprehensive beating in midweek – at fellow promotees Genoa – but now could be as good a time as any to face the champions who, having not won in three games, could be distracted by their difficult European tie against Liverpool on March 11.
The Partenopei were eighth at the championship’s halfway mark. In October Edy Reja’s side claimed the scalp of Juventus but it was clear that the team, which competed in Serie C1 two seasons ago, was overachieving and since the turn of the New Year the Neapolitans have only won twice. Scuffles between the Coach and ambitious President, Aurelio Di Laurentiis, have coincided with a dip in form despite the signing of no less than four players in the January transfer window.
Top scorer Marcelo Zalayeta last hit the net in December and will be missing from the team-sheet on Sunday after a brawl in the tunnel against Empoli last weekend earned him a sending off and a two-match ban. Ezequiel Lavezzi, burdened with the expectation of any Argentine forward playing at the San Paolo, has hardly been prolific but is showing signs of sparking into life again after scoring a brace in the team’s last victory against Udinese three weeks ago.
But tactical confusion and a string of suspensions have made Napoli an unpredictable animal. Still without first-choice goalkeeper Gennaro Iezzo, the return of defenders Paolo Cannavaro, Gyorgy Garics and Fabiano Santacroce should steady a ship that has leaked 38 goals in 2007-08, only three less than Cagliari – Serie A’s most porous defence.
Reja said: “It will be difficult against the Nerazzurri, but we have always played well against the big teams.” Results suggest otherwise. Of the 12 points available against Milan, Inter, Juventus and Roma, the Partenopei have taken just four.
Inter are unbeaten in the League since February 2, 2007, and have one hand on the Scudetto after earning an exhausting and last gasp point against Roma on Wednesday night. The Beneamata suffered as Maxwell joined Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Julio Cruz, Ivan Cordoba and Walter Samuel in the treatment room. Roberto Mancini will be reassured to find Marco Materazzi on the plane to Campania given Matrix is unavailable to face Steven Gerrard and the Reds in the Champions League.
Interisti should also be worried as the last time the Nerazzurri travelled to the San Paolo in 2001 they lost 1-0 to a goal from Francelino Matuzalem.
Keep an eye on: Ezequiel Lavezzi (Napoli) – Not Diego Maradona, but another Argentine capable of winning games. Every time the diminutive El Pocho has found the net, Napoli have found themselves in the points.
Forza Napoli. Not this coming weekend, though. :nervous:
Thing 'bout Lavezzi is he isn't just about scoring goals. He wreaks havoc on the opponent through his non-stop running and aggression, and he provides a surprising number of assists, too. A real sensational talent.