Napoli-Milan Preview: Magma

There is a lot of history between Napoli and Milan, specifically around the time that Napoli won their only two Scudetti. Milan were the main protagonists when Napoli failed to win more, even with their all-time hero and their stadium's new namesake, Diego Armando Maradona. Fast forward to the present, as Napoli are the closest to a league title as they have been in years, it is once again Milan threatening to get in their way. As if that was not enough, there was the referee/VAR controversy in the first round back in December that gave Napoli all three points when the teams should have split two. All of this is like the molten rock below the earth's crust at nearby Mt. Vesuvius*, letting off steam until it is ready to just explode. One way or the other, that eruption may take place on the pitch on Sunday night.

When the blood boils, it acts a lot like magma

Napoli and Milan are tied for second place on points after Inter took the top of the table back on Friday by brutalizing poor Salernitana, but Napoli are ahead of Milan on goal differential. They are also ahead on ref calls and recent results, having taken out Lazio 2-1 on Sunday. For that match, Spalletti lined up Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Rrahmani, Koulibaly, Mario Rui; Ruiz, Demme; Politano, Zielinski, Insigne; and Osimhen. This week, he recovered Lozano and Anguissa from injury, but will still be missing Tuanzebe, with Malcuit unlikely to be called up due to fitness.

The players are exhausted just having to model them all

Napoli will be wearing their 7,623rd different kit of the season, once again featuring the stylized face of Maradona. Maradona's brother threatened to sue De Laurentiis for the unauthorized use of his dead brother's image, but the threat of a lawsuit is like a stranger passing by on a scooter for De Laurentiis, it may actually be inviting for him.

The big talking point this week is the AIA's choice of referee for this one, Daniele Orsato. Neither club's fan bases are thrilled with this choice due to past referee issues, but I think Napoli fans are less happy. That may be intentional, the AIA's pathetic way of saying "We're sorry we impacted the tightest title race in years with the wrong call in the first fixture. Here's a ref that the opposition hates more than you do." Or something. It's Italy. Who knows what they are thinking?

What should have been

I happen to think Orsato is a good (but not perfect) referee. Also, his name is not Massa, Serra, Marchetti, etc., nor is he one of the four referees that have been suspended after refereeing a Milan match this season, so that has to count for something. I just hope he minds his cards and whistles and feels confident enough in the security at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona to make the right calls. Period.

As for Pioli, he will still be missing Kjaer and now Romagnoli for this one. Kalulu may be small, but he has shown that he is quite capable of deputizing in the middle when we need him most. After missing an average of about eight players for well over 20 matches this season, it is difficult to even break a sweat about only missing two or three players. There is also the 6'5" matter of a certain Swedish player who has to be going insane to get back on the pitch and unleash his awesomeness, but he is uncertain as of this writing and still did personalized training on Friday. 

What magma looks like, seething under the surface

The match will likely be decided either by the referee again; by rest, since Napoli did not play midweek, while Milan ran around senselessly in a Coppa Italia semifinal on Tuesday; or by grinta. All I know is that if one of their players knocks Giroud over and lies on top of him again, pinning him in an offside position to negate a Kessié goal, I cannot be responsible for what may erupt from me verbally or physically. 

I can only imagine how the Milan players are feeling going into this match, especially after having been robbed twice more by the referees since then, as well. With the Scudetto race so tight, the past history, and the recent referee incidents, something is likely to erupt. What may be magma under the surface now will become burning hot lava on the pitch on Sunday.

*All references to volcanoes, magma, eruptions, Mt. Vesuvius, etc. in this post are simply a stylistic choice due to the geographic proximity the club have to active volcanoes and should not in any way be considered territorial discrimination. Volcanoes are badass, I've loved them since I was in the fourth grade. (Why I have to make this disclaimer, I don't know, ask a Napoli fan.) 

This post inspired by the music of X Ambassadors' "BOOM"

Serie A Week 28
Napoli vs. Milan
Sunday, March 6 • 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)
This match can be streamed LIVE on Paramount+ in the U.S.

Napoli-Milan Preview: Magma Napoli-Milan Preview: Magma Reviewed by Elaine on 11:00 PM Rating: 5
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