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Milan-Napoli Preview: Hungry?

As I write this preview, I am honestly hoping this game even gets played. As of this writing, I believe it has been nine Serie A matches this week moved or postponed due to inclement weather, including this one. And even if tomorrow, here in America, there is one gigantic American Football game being played, nothing can take the place of a Milan game. Of course, it could be painful, too. But coming off of a painful loss to Lazio midweek and needing to grab every point possible, I am hoping that our boys will be hungry.

Can we have our cake and eat it, too?

When I was growing up, I knew nothing of Italy or Napoli. In fact, for me “Neopolitan” was a delicious trio of ice creams: chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. Now when I hear “Neopolitan,” I think of the brothers Cannavaro, or of today’s stars, Hamsik and Cavani, or even the legendary Maradona, who put Neopolitan football on the map. And certainly, to think of their Champions league games this year, or the nightmares they gave us in September at the San Paolo, it’s enough to give you indigestion.


But the truth is, the Partenopei have been very inconsistent this season, with a 6-1 win over Genoa in December, and then drawing to relegation zone Cesena on Wednesday.They have 7 wins, 9 draws, and 5 losses and are in 7th place In the table. Obviously, they do better at home at the San Paolo, so this time, we will have the advantage as they will have to face us at the San Siro. And even if the weather will likely prevent it from being filled to capacity, it may just be the dealbreaker, even if they will also be hungry for 3 points.

Coach Walter Mazzari has heavily criticized the referee in the Cesena game this week, outright blaming him and his mistakes for their loss of 2 points. Two things about this: one, he will likely be watching Nicola Rizzoli more than his team, and two, he’s kind of losing it. He was just handed a touchline ban and fine from UEFA for their Champions League matches, too, for his protests when they played Villareal in December. Maybe he’s been spending too much time with club president Aurelio de Laurentiis and his impulsive rants and scooter rides, I don’t know. But there is a very derogatory term Northerners use toward Southerners like Neopolitans that could be easily applied here. Only I always thought they were saying torrone, the delicious light and fluffy nut and nougat confection. At least I got the nut part right.


Mazzarri is in the very enviable position of having a full squad at his disposal, with Paolo Cannavaro returning from his ankle injury. He typically lines up a 3-4-1-2, and that has served him well this season. Against Cesena, he lined up De Sanctis; Aronica, Britos, Campagnaro’ Gargano, Inler, Dossena, Maggio; Cavani, Dzemaili, and Pandev. I would expect both Cannavaro and Hamsik to come into the starting 11 for this one.

Milan have at least 9 players injured still, even if Boateng and Aquilani could be back in the next 10 days. Allegri is going to be very hungry for this one, and going head to head with Mazzari is never easy. What he did on Wednesday didn’t work against a very determined Lazio, and he failed to sub early enough to make the difference. So I’m hoping that he’ll shake things up a little bit with what he’s got. My best guess (which isn’t much): Abbiati; Abate, Mexes, Thiago Silva, Mesbah; Seedorf, van Bommel, Nocerino; Emanuelson, Maxi, Ibra. I know it’s crazy, but it just might work. He may opt for Antonini over Mesbah, but if Seedorf has to start, I like him on the right. Abate plays better when he’s over there. And I know the Urby at trequartista has failed against other teams, but Napoli are the kind of team it may work out for, at least in a pinch. We don’t have a lot of options. I would leave Robinho on the bench to start because he’s been better as a sub. Then you’ve still got El Shaarawy and Pippo, if he’s called up, to help change the attack should we need to.

One other consideration, though, is that it’s that time of year when we have a lot of players just one yellow away from suspension: Antonini, Aquilani, Bonera, Mesbah, and van Bommel. It will be important for them to avoid suspension before our reinforcements come back, particularly with Udinese next week.


Napoli may bring to mind sweets and desserts, but I am hoping tht Milan make a meal out of them. Maybe some pasta Milanese? I don’t even care what’s for dinner, just as long as it involves three points and no injuries for us. The no suspensions can be dessert. It’s hard to come back from a loss like Wednesday, but if anyone can do it, Milan can. Allegri may come under my watchful eye sometimes, but he is the best coach in Serie A and I know he’s got what it takes to lead our boys to victory tomorrow. If the game is played, of course. When it all comes down to it, the question we ask our boys is “Are you hungry?”


Milan vs. Napoli
Sunday, February 5th • 15:00 CET (9am EST)
This match will be shown only on ESPN3 in the U.S.
The match is still in danger of being postponed due to weather


This post inspired by the music of Silversun Pickups