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Milan-Napoli Preview: The Biggest Loser


The battle for the Scudetto is all but over, what remains to be seen is how many points Juventus will drop. Mathematically, it’s not impossible for them to let it go, but they’ve got a pretty good grip on it. So what is left for the rest of us to fight for? To see who can be the biggest loser, or second place. Currently, Napoli are in line for that title, and we are four precious points behind them. So Sunday is time for the big weigh in. Conceivably, the winner of Sunday’s match will likely become this season’s biggest loser.

El Shaarawy will try to weigh in on the outcome
Napoli have had a season of gains and losses as they have steadily worked toward second place. Crashing out in the second round of the Europa League, they have continued to dominate the league despite a couple of months of poor form. In all they have 18 wins, 8 draws, and 5 losses in Serie A, whereas Milan weighs in at 17 wins, 7 draws and 7 losses. In a competition where every point counts, they have managed to keep fit to the tune of 4 more points than us.

Of course, as they head to the San Siro to face us on Sunday, their run of form is on the upswing, with a D-L-W-W-W record in their last five matches. The only struggle they really seem to be having is that Cavani has only made 8 of 23 penalties. So someone made the joke this week that Allegri should have our boys concede as many penalties as possible, as it is unlikely that Cavani would convert. Their other weak spot is conceding goals, however, as they have given up 8 goals in their last 5 matches, with only one clean sheet last week vs. Genoa.

Watch out for Dzemaili, after his hat trick vs. Torino 2 weeks ago, he is ready to score

But the reality is that they are a strong team. They have played together longer than Milan and they have been getting the results for most of the season. Mazzarri has taken a team that always fell short and is finally a few games away from finally being second best. Against Genoa last week, he lined up De Sanctis; Britos, Campagnaro, Cannavaro; Maggio, Hamsik, Dzemaili, Armero, Behrami; Cavani, and Pandev. It seems he will have his full squad at his disposal, and I’m sure he will field his strongest 11 in the battle for second best.

Milan dropped a lot of weight this summer in both salary and quality. But no one told that to this team. We have been fighting back from a near disastrous start and our confidence and home field advantage may be just enough to give us the edge in this one. Certainly, being without Balotelli is not going to help us. But actually, Pazzini’s form has exploded and he has actually nearly matched Balotelli’s record in the same number of games. So we shouldn’t be despondent. Also, the first tie in November was a 2-2 draw at the San Paolo that saw our season turn around, so maybe our luck will continue and we can actually grab the win this time.

Remember this guy?

The most amazing prospect is the return of Didac Vila. After an injury that saw his transfer away from Milan last summer failed, he has finally recovered from the injury and subsequent surgery and has been seen training at Milanello for about a week or more now. Surely, Allegri has great plans for him. In fact, maybe the fullback will not only start, but replace Balotelli up front. But who am I kidding? He will likely be lucky to see a few minutes at all.

I have yet to hear as of this writing whether or not Ambrosini will have recovered from his knock. Which means it will likely be the Montolivo show in the midfield, escorted by two destroyers like Card Happy Flamini and Killer Tackles Muntari. Constant may get the nod over De Sciglio at left back, but I expect Abate, Mexes, and Zapata to start in the back. Up front I would expect Boateng, Pazzini, and El Shaarawy to start, but maybe Allegri will surprise me. In fact, try to see if you can get those last few seconds you spent reading my guesses at his lineups back, because he usually waits to see my lineups, then does the opposite.

"Pssst... De Sanctis... I'm coming for you..."

I know for sure, though, that Allegri will be playing to win on Sunday. Whether he is auditioning for another club at this point or striving to be confirmed every day here at Milan, winning this match would put us one point behind the biggest losers, and that is something he will be hungry for one way or the other. This will be an epic battle, one in which I hope the ref doesn’t really weigh in on. It is a must win match for both teams, but only one can win. Let’s hope all is fair in love and football, and at 90 minutes, maybe we will get a preview of which team will be the biggest loser.


This post inspired by the music of Portishead


Milan vs. Napoli
Sunday, April 14 • 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)
This match will be broadcast LIVE on RAI in the US
(check comments for stream links before the match)