Catania v. Napoli: Elephants In The Room

Giuseppe Bellini

A depleted roster is going to make Napoli's job much harder on Wednesday, though fortunately they get a soft landing with Serie A's bottom-dwelling club.

Napoli travel to Catania to try and right the ship after a disastrous loss to Fiorentina that depleted an already-taxed roster. If this kind of crisis had to happen, the timing is a little helpful, but it's still going to be interesting to see how the partenopei dance and sing their way through this one.

Catania v. Napoli:3/26/14 2045 CET, 1545 EST Stadio Angelo MassiminoCatania, Italy
Circus Elephants Dressed Red And Blue

As a club that was already struggling badly, Catania's decision-makers rolled the dice in January and made a managerial change, and it's a decision that hasn't done them a whole lot of good. Gli Elefanti have won just one match in ten since Rolando Maran took the reigns on January 16th, and they sit in the same lowly 20th place that they did when the change was made.

To put it mildly, they've been a hot mess this season. Some bizarre transfer market decisions has been followed up by borderline schizophrenic form from their key players, and the end result has been a club that looks almost certain to be relegated come the end of the season. They looked fairly solid before a late capitulation against Juventus last weekend, but Maran's squad is a very beatable one.

Catania will be without leading scorer Gonzalo Bergessio after he earned two yellow cards in the Juve match. That means they'll be relying on the fortunes of Pablo Barrientos working in from the wings. Given Napoli's injury situation at the back, that might be an effective strategy, but given how thin they are in creative talent without Bergessio it'll still be hard to pull off.

Also of note is that Mariano Andujar has been starting steadily in goal again since early February. Napoli bought Andujar from Catania in January and immediately loaned him back for the remainder of the season; he's intended to be next season's backup goalkeeper.

Limping On Through

Just filling out a lineup card is going to be difficult to do for Rafa Benitez on this one, especially with just three days of rest before a vital match in Naples against Juventus. With Faouzi Ghoulam out suspended, Benitez has just one fully fit fullback to call on, and Anthony Reveillere hasn't exactly been inspiring confidence since his arrival in Italy. We have seen Henrique Buss play at right back to... middling success in a substitute appearance, and if he were to start there this would be the match to do it in. Rafa did float the idea of playing a three-man back line when talking to the press, though, and given the available personnel it makes a lot more sense to go in that direction.

If he does go with a 3-5-2 variant, we could see Benitez hand a day off to Gonzalo Higuain, especially after his frustration got the better of him against Fiorentina. Higuain's looked a bit gassed lately, and he'll need to be as fit as possible heading in to the Juve tilt. This would also be a great opportunity to start and evaluate Duvan Zapata, as well as give Goran Pandev a run out at his preferred position as a support striker, rather than as an attacking midfielder as he's generally been used this season.

Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong

Catania (4-3-3): Andujar; Peruzzi, Bellusci, Rolin, Biraghi; Izco, Lodi, Rinaudo; Bergessio, Keko, Leto

Napoli (3-5-2): Reina; Henrique, Albiol, Fernandez; Callejon, Behrami, Hamsik, Jorginho, Insigne; Zapata, Pandev

At A Glance

Catania: 20th; 4W 8D 17L; League Form: LLDLL

Napoli: 3rd; 17W 7D 5L; League Form: LWWDD

Reverse Fixture

Two early goals were threatened by a terrible Pablo Armero error, but Napoli were able to hold up at the Stadio San Paolo for a comfortable 2-1 win. Outside of an absolutely astounding Marek Hamsik match, goal, there wasn't anything too terribly interesting about the match, though the rather spectacular fashion in which they went about wasting a number of dangerous corners was pretty notable.

Watch it

The match will start Wednesday at 8:45 PM CET/3:45 PM EST. Television coverage will be on Sky Calcio 3 in Italy and beIN Sports Play (online streaming) in America. Other live viewing options can be found here, and as always, we'll have a match thread live here for discussion of the game at hand. You can also follow along with us live on Twitter.

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