While it's quite cool to play Champions League football and all, participating in the tournament does require careful juggling of players. Well, unless you're Walter Mazzarri, who prefers to simply wear out his set-in-stone starting XI. But Napoli have moved on from Mazzarri, and Rafa Benítez is willing to embrace a rotation policy. Supporters may not always understand or like his squad selection, but at least Rafa isn't exhausting the players.
So what's going to happen against Parma? On one hand, Tuesday brings yet another must-win Champions League fixture. This time it's against Borussia Dortmund and it's on their turf. But after the loss to Juventus, Napoli have slipped down into third and really, really need a win at the San Paolo -- not so much to prove it to the nay-sayers that the scudetto is still an option, but to remind the players that they're still in a title race.
Many seem to think that Napoli will still field a majority of first-choice starters. Well, there's not much choice at the back, with injuries ruling out Giandomenico Mesto and Camilo Zúñiga. Some still seem to think Paolo Cannavaro will make another appearance in the Napoli shirt, but don't hold your breath. It's most likely going to be Christian Maggio, Raúl Albiol, Miguel Britos and Pablo Armero. This is a perfect match for Britos to return, as Federico Fernández played every minute of Argentina's friendlies -- in the United States -- and is likely a wee bit tired.
We're seeing a lot of a rumored Valon Behrami - Gökhan İnler pairing in front of the back four. That'd be unusual, as Rafa typically likes to save that duo for the Champions League, and play Blerim Džemaili instead. Dzei and Inler both went the full 90 against South Korea -- in Seoul, mind you -- so it seems a good idea that Behrami start. But I'd still favor Dzei stepping in rather than Inler.
Then we come to the attack, where the majority of the rotation happens. José Callejón didn't go away on international duty, so it's almost certain he'll play in both matches. That leaves two major questions: Which of Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne plays on the left? And where does Goran Pandev fit in all this?
Both Marek Hamšík and Gonzalo Higuaín took knocks while away on international duty. Hamšík's seemed a bit more serious, but Pipita had to travel further. So will it be Marekiaro in the center with Pandev up top, or the other way around? Because let's face it, it's highly unlikely that Rafa will field both Pandev and Duván Zapata. Pandev performs better sitting behind the striker, so it's more likely that he'll step in for Hamšík and Higuaín will play in both matches.
As for the Mertens/Insigne conundrum, well, your guess is as good as mine. It feels as though Benítez is using them both equally, so it could be either one getting the start against Parma, with the other resting until the Dortmund match. But how do you feel? Do you think it should be Insigne on Saturday and Mertens on Tuesday? That's the way I'm leaning, but if you've got a different idea, please, tell us why.
Lineups + match talk to come later....