Napoli-Milan Preview: Time for Big Game Bonera

This was set to be a big matchup from the moment the Serie A schedule was drawn this summer. However, it turns out that it may be even bigger than we anticipated. Napoli were awarded a loss and docked a point for protecting the people of Turin and specifically Juventus from exposure to a COVID outbreak they faced the week prior to the game that wasn't played. Which means that had they been able to play that game and won, they would be going into this match at the top of the table instead of Milan. However, even that story is overshadowed by current cases of positive tests for COVID in both squads, including Milan's manager and assistant manager. Which means it's time for Big Game Bonera™.


Is the legend ready for the big time?


The story of this match begins with a humble former teammate of the legendary Bonera, one Gennaro Gattuso. The beloved former Milan legend, and more recently coach, left Milan with pieces of our hearts, and took over Napoli from our also beloved Carletto last season. Given a more stable squad and circumstances with the Partenopei, Gattuso coached Napoli to a Coppa Italia trophy this summer, his first coaching hardware. Now he is the enemy, like that ex that you can't get out of your mind. Or, perhaps more like a frenemy, like Joe of @ForzaNapoliPod. On my most recent podcast, we discussed this match, along with the Gattuso of both Milan and Napoli fame. For his preview and predictions for this match, check out his podcast, Forza Napoli Calcio Podcast wherever you get your podcasts.


Frenemies

Bonera's ex-teammate coached Napoli to a hard-fought 1-0 win over Mihajlovic's Bologna before the break. For that match, Ringhio lined up Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Koulibaly, Hysaj; Ruiz, Bakayoko; Lozano, Mertens, Insigne; and Osimhen. Then the international break happened. The hero of that last win, Osimhen, was injured playing for Nigeria over the break, and will not be available for this match. Likewise, Hysaj and Rrahmani tested positive for COVID while on international duty, and are also likely be unavailable tomorrow. Our former midfielder, Bakayoko, had fever earlier this week, but was back in training yesterday and should be available. Also missing will be Napoli's athletic coach, Tenderino, who will be suspended for this game, having been sent off during the Bologna match.


Former teammates and current leaders


Pioli and his shorter doppleganger, Murelli, both tested positive for COVID-19 and are in isolation, attending trainings this week via video conferencing and drone representation only. Which means that the legendary Daniele Bonera will be taking control of his first match as coach. As this is a big game, we can only hope that Big Game Bonera™ will show up, the one who marked Messi and Ronaldo like a world class defender, but kindly and frequently allowed goals from opponents and teammates alike in the smaller games. However, if that fails, we can probably depend on another of Bonera and Gattuso's former teammates, Ibrahimovic, who is like a coach on the pitch. Like any good father, this week, Ibrahimovic bought his teammates PS5s. Hopefully, they will not be too tired from staying up and playing with their new toys all week.


Celebrating in training for the drone version of Pioli


So far, it seems that we will only be missing Pioli and Murelli to COVID positive tests. Bonera previously had COVID with symptoms, so hopefully he will have an immunity at least until Pioli and Murelli return. However, we did lose Leao to a muscle injury while he was on international duty with the Portugal U21 team. On the flip side, Rebic has been coming back from his horrific elbow injury, and is likely ready to score again, he is expected to start. Romagnoli overcame his minor injury over the break, and is hopefully in a better mindset, too. It is always difficult to predict how players will perform after an international break. The few that stayed at Milanello look rested and ready to go, it remains to be seen how the travel and stress will affect those who played for their national teams.


Ready for the captain to return, physically and mentally


The bottom line is that if Napoli win, they would go joint top of the table with Milan, and Roma could also be tied if they win their match against Parma. Or Sassuolo could go top if they beat Verona. And also, our 19 game unbeaten run in the league would be over. But if Milan win, we maintain first place. And make it 20 games unbeaten. The boys say they want to win for Pioli, but will they be able to pull it off without him? It will be up to Big Game Bonera™. If he shows up, he maintains his legendary status. If not, he will just be the guy who broke our streak and cost us valuable points in our efforts to return to the Champions League. He may not be on the pitch anymore, but this game could definitely use Big Game Bonera™.


This post inspired by David Bowie's "Heroes"


Check out the latest Milan Obsession Podcast, "Frenemies" with Joe of @ForzaNapoliPod also available on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, or wherever you get your podcasts


Serie A Week 8
Napoli vs. Milan
Sunday, November 22 • 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)
This match will be shown LIVE on ESPN in the U.S.
and is also available to stream on ESPN+

Napoli-Milan Preview: Time for Big Game Bonera Napoli-Milan Preview: Time for Big Game Bonera Reviewed by Elaine on 1:55 AM Rating: 5
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