Serie A Week 4 - 24/9/08 (19.30 UK)
Napoli - Palermo
Stadio San Paolo
High-flying Napoli host in-form Palermo at the Stadio San Paolo in a fascinating Derby delle Due Sicilie.
Although not an obvious local derby, the cities of Naples and Palermo are linked historically as the they were united in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies before Italian Unification in 1860. Although over 100 miles of water separates the two ports, a ferry service run makes the journey daily.
Boosted by their scintillating 3-2 win over Benfica in the UEFA Cup, Napoli dug deep to hold Udinese last weekend in spite of the dismissal of defender Fabiano Santacroce. It remains to be seen whether the busy fixture list takes its toll on Edy Reja’s squad, but things are looking bright in Naples as they approach a battle with direct UEFA Cup qualification rivals.
Palermo look like a side possessed under new Coach Davide Ballardini. President Maurizio Zamparini’s decision to sack Stefano Colantuono after just one defeat is starting to look like a wise one after two consecutive wins over Roma and Genoa.
The midfield looks altogether more dynamic in the new system and the Rosanero are growing in confidence, but consistency has been lacking in Sicily in recent times.
Napoli secured a 1-0 win in this fixture last term, but their home advantage has been depleted by the partial fan ban at the Stadio San Paolo that means the Vesuviani’s games are being played in quieter surroundings than usual.
Reja has happy memories of Palermo, as he wore the Aquile shirt as a player between 1968 and 1973, playing over 100 games. The northern boss will have to do without Argentine striking star Ezequiel Lavezzi, who is out injured for at least a fortnight. Mariano Bogliacino and Christian Maggio are also injured, while Santacroce is suspended.
The visitors make the trip to the mainland without strikers Fabrizio Miccoli and Igor Budan, who are out of action.
Keep an eye on: Fabio Simplicio (Palermo) – The Brazilian midfielder is thriving under new boss Davide Ballardini and is showing the vision of a true playmaker.
Last season: Napoli 1–0 Palermo
Form guide: Napoli (L W D - -) Palermo (L W W - -)
Napoli (probable): Iezzo; Cannavaro, Rinaudo, Aronica; Montervino, Gargano, Blasi, Pazienza, Vitale; Denis, Zalayeta