Napoli will be heading out tomorrow looking to finish the season on a strong note and finish a victory parade of sorts. Everything that's going to be accomplished has been, and this is just one last run out for the fans, a chance to score a few more goals and maybe test a couple tactical ideas before everyone goes home or to World Cup training camps.
So Close, Yet So Far From The Border
Of course, Hellas Verona still have a little bit more to play for. It's a remote chance, but should they win, Torino lose, and each of AC Milan and Parma lose or draw, Verona will be in the Europa League qualification stages next season. That would be a very impressive accomplishment for a side that was just promoted from Serie B and then sold one of their best players in January.
You have to wonder how sustainable this run will be for Verona, though. Much of their success can be attributed to fantastic seasons from Luca Toni and Juan Iturbe; with Iturbe only in the side on loan and Toni turning 37 later this month and having an expiring contract, that's two vital players who won't be in the side next season. Even if Toni does stay, no one can expect him to have the same strike rate he did this year again.
Add those losses to the sale of Jorginho and Romulo being likely to return to Fiorentina at the end of his loan, and even other on-loan regulars like Marquinhos and Bosko Jakovic, and this might be the one chance Verona has in the next few years to truly be competitive. They're not the richest of clubs, and even striking as well with loan players as they did this season again is no guarantee.
Still, Andrea Mandorlini deserves full credit for what his side has done. He's lead them through some tremendous performances this season, and I'd actually almost feel bad if Napoli beat the tar out of them tomorrow.
The Last Full Measure
There's two things of real note in this match from a Napoli perspective. First, Napoli have a shot at equaling the club's Serie A points record, set last season under Walter Mazzarri. For all the disappointment that Napoli fans have expressed this year, it's still been an incredibly successful season that in the end is more impressive than last season, which was one considered among the greatest in Napoli history.
If they score just two goals tomorrow, they'll better last season's total for the best in club history. They've won the Coppa Italia. They came up short in the Champions League, but not for lack of trying; they were eliminated via tiebreaker, and their 12 points would have gotten out of any other group and won several of them. Napoli's fanbase has every reason to be proud of what this squad has done, and given how it can improve and grow in Rafa's second season, they should be excited of what's still to come.
The other notable thing about this match will be the crowd. After the unrest around the Coppa Italia final, Napoli were slapped with a stadium ban, meaning that this match was to be played behind closed doors. However, while negotiating a reduction of the ban from two games to one, Napoli were also able to arrange a compromise: the stadium will be open to the children of the city. While it's unfortunate that the Curvas won't be populated by the usual partenopei faithful, turning a bad situation in to a wonderful gesture for the community can only be a good thing for the club on the final day of the season.
Expect some small degree of rotation from the standard lineup. There's a couple players who could use one last match given that there's no impact
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
Napoli: Reina; Maggio, Henrique, Fernandez, Ghoulam; Dzemaili, Jorginho; Mertens, Hamsik, Insigne; Zapata
Hellas Verona: Rafael; Cacciatore, Marques, Moras, Agostini; Sala, Donadel, Hallfredsson; Romulo, Toni, Iturbe
At a glance
Hellas Verona: 9th; 16W 6D 15L League Form: DDWWL
Napoli: 3rd; 22W 9D 6L; League Form: WWDDW
Last Time Out
Last Time Out
This past January, Napoli went to the Bentegodi in Verona and thumped the hosts. Verona's home had been a fortress by that point of the season, but Napoli completely outclassed them en route to a 3-0 victory. Lorenzo Insigne got his first league goal of the season, Dries Mertens got his fifth, and even Blerim Dzemaili got in on the fun, putting in a late tap-in to kill the match off. Jorginho also put in a strong performance in midfield for Verona that day, just six days before his long-rumored move to Napoli was completed.
The match will start Sunday at 8:45 PM CET/2:45 PM EST. Television coverage will be on Premium Calcio 3 in Italy and beIN Sports Play (online stream) 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.