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Island Vacation: Cagliari v. Napoli Preview

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With one last match to go before Serie A's two-week winter break, Napoli head to Sardinia to face down Cagliari.

More goal celebrations please, Lorenzo
More goal celebrations please, Lorenzo
Giuseppe Bellini

The winter break is upon us, but Napoli's first-half task isn't quite over with yet. Still on the agenda is a trip to the island of Sardinia to face off against twelfth-place Cagliari.

Given Cagliari's recent form, this won't be a pushover match. They're unbeaten in five, earning two wins against Torino and Genoa. Their narrow 4-3-2-1 is rarely easy to break down, and they've given up more than two goals just twice this season. Fortunately for Napoli's shaky defense, however, is that the Sardinians have yet to score more than two goals in any match this term.

Cagliari will be getting their captain, Daniele Conti, back from what's already his second yellow card accumulation suspension this season. Striker Victor Ibarbo and keeper Michael Agazzi remain unavailable by injury and suspension, respectively. Conti's return will add some steel to the hosts' squad, pairing with Radja Nainggolan and Daniele Desena to form the base of their midfield, with Andrea Cossu or Matias Cabrera at the point supplying the strikers.

It sounds as though Pepe Reina will, finally, return to the lineup, after missing the last four matches with injury. Of course, that's what the thought has been all along, so we'll have to wait and see. Otherwise, I'd expect the lineup to stay much the same as against Inter last weekend, though potentially with Gokhan Inler being dropped in favor of Valon Behrami as Inler had another poor performance. With all that in mind, this is my current projection of tomorrow's lineup:

Reina

Maggio Fernandez Albiol Reveillere

Behrami Dzemaili

Callejon Mertens Insigne

Higuain

While it's tempting to say that Goran Pandev will return in the hole, he had well-earned his demotion to the bench against Inter after a horrid display in the Arsenal match. Once he finally did see the pitch, Pandev didn't exactly cover himself in glory when he forced Lorenzo Insigne to give up a chance to take a penalty and then biffed the effort about as thoroughly as possible. Besides that, the combination of Insigne, Dries Mertens, and Jose Callejon in the attacking midfield band was dynamic and incredibly effective in ways that the squad just hasn't seen since Marek Hamsik went down with injury.

ssc napoli blog sbn

The match will start Sunday at 8:45 PM CET/11:45 AM EST. Television coverage will be on BT Sport 1 in the UK, Sky Calcio 1 in Italy, and beIn Sport 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.