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Napoli vs. Chievo, preview: Don't panic

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After dropping points to Bologna last week, Napoli have got to beat Chievo this week. But there's one very good reason not to worry...we think.

Dino Panato

It's only Round 21, yet somehow Napoli are already playing "must-win" matches. "Must-win" to stay in touch with Roma in second. "Must-win" to remind the squad that Champions League football is the goal. "Must-win" just to stop people from laughing at Napoli for goodness sake please stop poor Raúl Albiol was tired ok and he just couldn't stop that last-minute Bologna goal and he has to play every single stinking match and it's not like he's getting help from the left back and

Ok, breathe.

Napoli vs. Chievo Verona:January 25 6 p.m. CET, 12 noon ET Stadio San PaoloNaples, Italy
The F*** Flying Donkeys

It's no secret that I absolutely hate Chievo Verona. In addition to being somewhat of a bogey side for Napoli, they've been one of the most boring sides in Serie A over the past few seasons. Despite having managed to stay in the top flight since 2008, the FFD have but one mission: don't get relegated. This mission is carried out at the fans' expense.

Eugenio Corini has said (assuming my Italian isn't horrible) that Chievo are set to play in a 3-5-2. Not sure why he feels the need to announce that, other than to differentiate from the 4-4-2 that lost to Napoli back in September, but that was Beppe Sannino's side, and Corini loves his defensive formations. Since taking over in November, Chievo have scored more than one in a league game just once, against Livorno. And since that match, they've failed to score three times in seven outings, notching a grand total of four goals during that spell.

Do you see why I hate this side?

The Frustrating Partenopei

What with Chievo sitting 16th and being even on points with sides in the relegation zone, you'd think Napoli would have this one all sewn up. Except wait, we thought the three points against Bologna were going to be a gimmie as well, and look what happened there.

Oh that's right. Rolando Bianchi happened.

We could say there's no way the same thing could happen at the San Paolo but, um, Sassuolo, anyone? But it seems Rafa Benítez is prepared to take Chievo seriously, and willing to put out his best side in order to get all three points. Coppa Italia? What's that? Sure, if Napoli are winning resoundingly after an hour, Rafa might give some of the starters a break. But right now, it seems the focus is on the league, not on Wednesday's match with Lazio.

After last week's performance, it's easy to get a little anxious about this match. If you're at that point, close your eyes and repeat after me: Marek Hamšík. Marek Hamšík. Marek Hamšík.

Sure, Marekiaro came on in the Bologna game and it still ended in a draw, but we must remember it all got a bit magical around the 57th minute. The tempo increased, the game started to flow, and oh yeah Napoli scored twice. This time, Marek should be on from the start. There. Panic over.

please play Marek Rafa please please please my heart can't handle it otherwise

The Facts

Napoli: 3rd; W13 D4 L3

Chievo Verona: 16th; W4 D5 L11

Reverse fixture: Chievo 2-4 Napoli
Goals: Hamšík 32', 64'; Paloschi 24', 40'; Callejón 27'; Higuaín 70'

Napoli Injuries and Suspensions

Behrami, Mesto, Zúñiga (injured); Reina (in doubt); Fernández (suspended)

Chievo Injuries and Suspensions

Calello (injured)

The Possibilities

Napoli (4-2-3-1): Rafael; Maggio, Albiol, Britos, Réveillère; Inler, Jorginho; Callejón, Hamšík, Insigne; Higuaín

Chievo (3-5-2): Puggioni; Frey, Dainelli, Cesar; Sardo, Bentivoglio, Rigoni, Hetemaj, Dramé; Paloschi, Théréau