Fiorentina vs. Napoli, preview: This won't be one of those cozy and comfortable October evenings

Marco Luzzani

In order not to lose even more traction in the title race, and to avoid Juventus shifting into second place, Napoli must grab all three points in Florence. But it's not as though the viola are an easy side to bring down...

You know what's an absolute blast? Midweek games against another side gunning for one of the Champions League positions. With a win, Fiorentina jump to 21 points, just a point behind both Juventus and Napoli. But Juve play Catania. And AS Roma take on Chievo Verona. In other words, if Napoli don't take all three points, they'll be eight behind the leaders and three behind the Old Lady.

So. No pressure.

Fortunately, Rafa Benítez did well rotating his squad in the win against Torino. That gives him a few options going into the match at the Franchi. Gonzalo Higuaín came off with more than 20 minutes left to play, replaced by José Callejón, so both are expected to start against Fiorentina. It's likely that Lorenzo Insigne will be rested in favor of Dries Mertens, who was fantastic on Sunday. It was rather surprising when it was Mertens, not Insigne, that came off with fifteen minutes left to play, but it seemed to hint that Rafa was ready to sit Illustrious against the viola. And with both Goran Pandev and Duván Zapata only racking up a few minutes of playing time, they'll both be options should Napoli need a bit of oomph in the attack.

The only real question mark is whether it will be Gökhan İnler or Blerim Džemaili that starts alongside Valon Behrami, who was rested on Sunday. The İnler-Behrami pairing has been preferred by Benítez this season, and with Vincenzo Montella favoring an all-out attacking style, it is odd to think that one of the destructive duo will be left out. But Džemaili did very well against Torino and looks intent on winning back a more consistent role in the starting XI. As long as he doesn't spend the majority of the match launching speculative shots from 40 meters out, he'll likely do just fine.

Fiorentina are unlikely to make many changes to the side that won 2-1 at Chievo last weekend, despite the fact that the squad didn't look to be at their best. They'll have to make due without Gonzalo Rodríguez, however, as the defender picked up a yellow on Sunday that lands him a one-game suspension. It's likely Nenad Tomović will sit as well, with Fiorentina reverting to a three man backline of Facundo Roncaglia, Marvin Compper and Stefan Savić.

The viola midfield will, of course, be packed, although its shine seems to be wearing off a bit. Due to superstitious reasons I don't like to critique players just before Napoli take the pitch against them -- otherwise, we'll see Borja Valero rearing back to his perfect self, or Alberto Aquilani pulling a wonderful match out of nowhere.

Although threats can often come from anywhere when Fiorentina are involved, the two to be especially wary of are Juan Cuadrado and Giuseppe Rossi. I know, I know -- it's like saying water is wet. But it was Rossi who bailed out his side when Juventus were up 2-0, and Cuadrado who came through on Sunday to rescue all three points.

In other words, there will be no comfortable leads for Napoli in Florence. This is not a time to play like on Sunday, taking a 2-0 lead and then acting selfishly. Higuaín must be prepared to pass to his teammates in good positions. Insigne, if he plays, has to shrug off the pressure of getting his first league goal, and do what he does best, beating defenders and getting the ball inside the area. And, now that Marek Hamšík has managed to recapture his passing skills, it would sure be helpful if the Slovak didn't freeze up when confronted with the goal.

No, this is not likely to be a comfortable evening. It may be time to reconstruct that pillow fort.

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