Napoli fans have grown used to feeling the pressure this season. While the club are on a bit of a high right now after winning three straight matches, a series of poor results in the league before that, following the Champions League playoff collapse, had everyone's teeth set on edge for some time. Fingers were pointed, blame was placed, and heads were called for.
Despite the "why is it always us?" mindset that can be easy to fall in to, Napoli aren't the only team embroiled in hard times right now. In point of fact, this weekend's opponent have had at least as bad a start to the season as the partenopei; Inter Milan and Napoli are both six points behind the pace of where they were last season, but after an aggressive transfer window and a strong close to last season, expectations were for a much, much stronger start for the nerazzurri.
That's left manager Walter Mazzarri on very thin ice, especially after taking two straight thrashings in the league at the hands of sides that they should have beaten. Getting whipped 4-1 at the San Siro by Cagliari was bad enough, but falling 3-0 to an injury-ravaged Fiorentina side and looking utterly hapless in the process was seen as insulting by many Inter fans.
Those results have left Mazzarri in a precarious position, and by many reports in Italy over the weekend, a third straight loss this weekend when Napoli visit the San Siro could be lights out for Walter. That leaves Napoli in a rather unique position: they fairly literally hold the fate of their last manager, a man still very popular with much of the club's fanbase, in their hands.
After they had a fairly acrimonious split, you know that Aurelio De Laurentiis has to be relishing the occasion. Even the possibility that these rumors ring true makes this something he will seek passionately, surely playing a role in his offering performance bonuses to the squad for this specific match. While many people would call that childish and unprofessional, to Napoli fans it's just part of what makes ADL so much damn fun.
As far as Walter and Inter go, this match being the "last call" as it were makes rather a lot of sense. Mazzarri and club president Erick Thohir have never seemed to get along very well based on interviews and media reports, and Thohir seems to have very little in the way of patience for any sort of lack of results. By reports over the last week, he's already lining up potential new managers, including David Moyes (HAH!) and Sampdoria manager Sinisa Mihajlovic, who has his side in a surprisingly convincing third place after an incredible start to the season.
As if this match needed any more spice to it, this specter of a firing looming over Walter Mazzarri's head certainly does the job. For once this season, the pressure is squarely on Napoli's opponent and their manager instead of the other way around; how the squad responds to that will be fascinating indeed to watch unfold.