Woah, uh...so, remember that time Napoli beat Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League? Oh, right -- it was only last Wednesday. Here's hoping everyone's shaking off their hangovers and is ready to get down to business, because, as it turns out, Serie A doesn't stop for European football. Instead, it's first to the San Siro to face AC Milan, and then on Wednesday Napoli host Sassuolo.
I think we all know which of these next two encounters is more important. Sassuolo. No? Ok, no. Milan are still a slightly better team than the side that's hanging out at the bottom of the table. But their performance against Celtic midweek left something to be desired, even if the rossoneri did come away with a 2-0 win. It took an own goal by the visitors for Milan to get off the mark, but Sully Muntari assured victory two minutes later with his goal from close range in the 85th minute. Yet Celtic were the better side for the majority of the match, and if they'd just managed to capitalize on their chances -- or a set piece, geez -- the Scots could've gone home with all three points.
Of course, Milan aren't helped by having an injury list longer than Kaka's daily devotional. The Brazilian is on that list himself, after taking the captain's armband last week when Riccardo Montolivo went out injured, only to find himself hurt. The two join the likes of Giampaolo Pazzini, Matias Silvestre, Mattia de Sciglio, Daniele Bonera and Stephan El Shaarawy in the physio room. Robinho and Valter Birsa remain doubts, while Ignazio Abate, Andrea Poli and M'baye Niang are all set for a return.
Despite Napoli's grueling midweek match, the partenopei have somehow managed to stay fit, although a couple players may be feeling a bit worn down. It's rumored that Miguel Britos and Gökhan İnler will give way for Paolo Cannavaro and Blerim Dzemaili. Respectively, of course. The Napoli defense may still be a weak point, but putting Dzemaili back there and telling him to stay put probably won't work out so well for Rafa Benítez.
It's almost certain, however, that Gonzalo Higuaín, José Callejón, Lorenzo Insigne and Marek Hamšík will have to wait to rest until the next round, provided Sassuolo don't pull a win out of their hat against Inter Milan. Rafa pulled Insigne just after his beautiful free kick against BVB, giving him a few extra minutes of recovery before Milan. Pipita, too, came off, although Marek had to wait until injury time for his break. Dries Mertens performed quite well in the final twenty minutes, even going close with his own free kick, so he may get some more time this weekend.
The partenopei may have proved themselves in Europe this week, but that was but one heat. The race is far from over, and Napoli will be called into question should they not manage at least a point against Milan -- provided, of course, that Milan's win does not come in the form of a last minute, questionable penalty. This new-look Napoli are shaping up to be even better than the optimists had hoped, but they've got to stay the course, and that means getting a result at the San Siro.