Friday, February 7, 2014

Napoli-Milan Preview: We Are Not Ne**olitans


Before the Lega Serie A gives me a stadium ban and a hefty fine, please understand that this is not meant to be territorial discrimination. When I say, “We are not Ne**olitans,” I simply mean that we are not in third place, we are not in the Coppa Italia Semifinals, we don’t have an experienced coach, and we don’t wear light blue. Geesh, the Lega have become so touchy about all of this. Don’t they realize that sometimes saying “We are not Ne**olitans” is a compliment?

I didn't realize Napoli was a different country...


For one thing, we are traveling to Napoli tomorrow. To the San Paolo, which, as everyone knows may as well be called a Cauldron of Fear™ by Napoli’s opponents. Napoli have earned their third place berth this season with 13 wins, 5 draws, and 4 losses, while Milan have only 7 wins, 8 draws, and 7 losses. To make matters worse, Napoli did well to reinforce in the recent transfer window, with a pair or fullbacks and some young central midfielder called Jorginho (yes, of course Milan were linked with him,) who seem to have slotted right into Napoli’s lineup.

However, we may be lucky to be facing Napoli at the right time. Their Coppa Semifinal score was 3-2 for Roma, but don’t let that deceive you, one of the Napoli goals was and own goal by De Sanctis. This, following their 3-0 defeat to Atalanta last week. Yes, you read that right, a 3-0 defeat to Atalanta. In fact their current run of form is W-W-D-D-L in the league. So either they will demolish us and send us home in a box, or we may be able to take advantage of their poor run of form. It’s hard to say, because we are not Ne**olitans.

They took all three points from us in our house, can we return the favor?

For the ridiculous loss to Atalanta, which was based on three massive defensive blunders, by the way, Benitez fielded Reina; Reveillere, Maggio, Fernandez, Albiol; Callejon, Mertens, Pandev, Dzemaili, Inler; and Duvan Zapata. This was not their strongest lineup, as I assume Benitez was resting players for the midweek Coppa match. But I don’t think he’ll take any chances against us tomorrow, so look for Higuain and Jorginho to start, amongst others. It appears as though he has a mostly healthy squad, missing only Mesto and Zuniga to long-term injuries.

But there is a suspension that will directly affect Napoli, and that is the suspension of Bonera to yellow card accumulation. Tough luck for the Neapolitans, because after their ridiculously loud and intimidating 12th man at the San Paolo, they were probably counting on Milan’s best defender to help them score at least one goal. I mean, Bonera has personally allowed more goals in his last two appearances than he has personally scored himself in his whole career. No wonder our opponents smile when they see him line up. But not this time, Napoli. We may be a team in transition with a young new coach, but you are going to have to settle for only 12 men tomorrow night.

A shame Napoli will be missing their 13th man

Meanwhile, our list of injured/sick players has shortened, but still seems painful. We are missing Kak√° to illness, and Zapata, El Shaarawy and Cristante to injury. It will be really interesting to see if Seedorf lets Mexes take Bonera’s place. So far, the new coach seems to prefer handicapping the team with the One Goal Wonder™, but without him available, he may have to select a center back who can actually defend.

Our away record is very poor, and the San Paolo is one of the most difficult places to go and play. But if the real Milan shows up, we have just as much right to those three points as those Neapolitans do.  Certainly we need every point we can do to climb the table to a respectable spot again. We have seen very positive and encouraging signs each match since Seedorf took over, even if we didn’t win each match, and at some point, the new ideas are likely to click and the winning streak begin. Whether or not that is tomorrow remains to be seen. After all, we are not Ne**olitans.


This post inspired by the music of Radiohead’s “The Bends” Album


Napoli vs. Milan
Saturday, February 8 • 20:45 CET (2:45 EST)
This match is being shown LIVE on RAI in the U.S.
Check here for stream links before the game