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Serie A Preview: Napoli – Fiorentina
Both teams opened their league accounts with a draw against two of Serie A’s giants by equalizing when down to ten men: Fiorentina drew with Juventus 1-1 and Napoli held Roma to the same scoreline. It confirmed what most pundits have been suggesting, that both these squads are slowly moving towards joining the Serie A elite...
New Beginning For Napoli
On the pitch it is a new beginning for I Vesuviani. Their new recruits seem to have acclimatized well and the team seem to be in good form, as they showed in the 1-1 draw with Roma despite having one less player on the pitch for nearly half the match after Fabio Santacroce’s red card.
The likes of hitman German Denis, wing-back Chrsitian Maggio, and Leandro Rinaudo have all expressed their joy at being a part of the project in Naples and have integrated well with the core players from last season like Marek Hamsik, Ezequiel Lavezzi, and Paolo Cannavaro.
The club are in their best position since the days of Diego Maradona and are building on their respectable 8th place finish last season as they look to move towards the top of the table in the next couple of years.
Unfortunately, off the pitch it has been a different story. Due to the violence of their fans revolving around the Roma match on the first Serie A matchday, Napoli have been heavily punished. After both sentence and appeal, the San Paolo stadium will have two stands (Curva A and Curva B) closed for the next three home matches, while their fans have been banned from travelling to their club’s away matches.
Thus, Napoli’s job in this match will be made that much more difficult without the same amount of support from their usually passionate fans.
Fiorentina Flying High
Fiorentina started their campaign in a very similar way to Napoli. Earning a draw with Juventus at the Stadio Artemio Frnachi, courtesy of an 89th minute goal from former Parma hero Alberto Gilardino.
Coach Cesare Prandelli has led the team back into the Champions League and the club invested plenty of money in the off-season to bring some more talent to the side. The likes of Stefan Jovetic, Juan Manuel Vargas, and Gilardino have already shown their worth to the side with some promising performances.
If Fiorentina want to compete with the giants of Serie A this season these are the types of matches they will have to win on the road to prove to their doubters they have grown. La Viola may have finished fourth last season, but with so many new players and the other sides in Serie A having strengthened as well, trying to predict where they will end up in the table has critics and fans alike divided. Some say Prandelli’s side can compete for the Scudetto, while others doubt they can even qualify for the Champions League again next season.
It is still unknown whether the club will have star player Adrian Mutu back for this match but even if he fails to make it in time, Prandelli will not be short on options on the bench to replace him upfront.
As a result of the fan violence from the Napoli-Roma match, Fiorentina have to indirectly suffer the consequences as their own supporters have also been banned from attending this match for their own protection. Thus, the stadium will be relatively empty on Sunday afternoon.
31 Aug Napoli 1-1 Roma
28 Aug Napoli 5-0 Vllaznia
14 Aug Vllaznia 0-3 Napoli
27 July Napoli 1-0 Panionios
19 July Panionios 0-1 Napoli
31 Aug Fiorentina 1-1 Juventus
27 Aug Slavia Prague 0-0 Fiorentina
22 Aug AZ Alkmaar 0-2 Fiorentina
19 Aug Fiorentina 6-2 Amici Del Forte
12 Aug Fiorentina 2-0 Slavia Prague
I Partenopei will miss starlet defender Fabio Santacroce as he was sent off in the previous match with Roma. He will be replaced by Rinaudo in the three man backline. Coach Edy Reja does not have to contend with many injuries as the only two in the treatment room for Napoli are midfielders Daniele Mannini and Mariano Bogliacino. Argentine German Denis should keep his place in attack ahead of Marcelo Zalayeta, who has recently returned to full fitness.
Attacking midfielder Felipe Melo is banned after his spirited performance against Juventus when he picked up a red card. It is a straight forward swap for Prandelli however, as he should be replaced by the returning Riccardo Montolivo. Alessandro Gamberini, Martin Jorgensen, and Gianluca Comotto are all certain to miss the game through injury.
Talisman Adrian Mutu could return to the line-up but his presence is not yet guaranteed as he is in a race to be ready in time for this encounter. Should he not make the trip to Naples, either Stefan Jovetic or Daniel Pablo Osvaldo will take his place in the starting XI.
POSSIBLE STARTING LINE-UP
Napoli: Iezzo - Rinaudo, Cannavaro, Contini - Maggio, Blasi, Gargano, Hamsik, Vitale - Denis, Lavezzi
Fiorentina: Frey - Zauri, Kroldrup, Dainelli, Vargas - Kuzmanovic, Donadel, Montolivo, Santana - Gilardino, Mutu/Jovetic
PLAYERS TO WATCH
After once again being left off Marcello Lippi’s Italy squad, Christian Maggio will have a point to prove to the national team manager. Many believe he should be included and were again surprised after he was omitted from the two World Cup qualifiers against Cyprus and Georgia. The former Fiorentina man recently said he would let his performances for Napoli do the talking and one can expect he will be fired up for this match against his former club.
After missing the match against Juventus through injury, Riccardo Montolivo is ready for action again with the Viola. He is considered a rising star in the peninsula and Lippi did state that had Montolivo not been injured he would have been called up for the national team this past week. Prandelli handed the young man the reigns to the Fiorentina midfield last season and looks set to do so again for this difficult match in Naples.