Napoli may be unbeaten in their last ten, but that doesn't mean fans are exactly thrilled with the team's performances recently. Three straight draws means that the partenopei were unable to close ground on the top three spots, leaving them stranded in 5th. And, Napoli being Napoli, it's easy to imagine that this trip to the San Siro isn't going to go smoothly, either -- no matter what Milan's current struggles might be.
Milan's slide has got to stop sometime...alas
Every Serie A side knows what it's got to do against the rossoneri this season. Get a free kick, put a big man up front, head the ball past Diego López. It works, again and again. And fortunately, Napoli have Kalidou Koulibay back for this match.
The problem, of course, is that Milan still does have a decent attack. I mean, even Fernando Torres has scored. Against Empoli, mind, but it still counted. Stephan El Shaarawy is still terrific, Jérémy Menez can turn defenses inside out and at some point, Keisuke Honda is going to rediscover the scoring touch so prominently displayed in the first part of the season.
And Napoli, well, Napoli have a rather porous defense. Of course Rafael can bail them out, and Koulibay is often a rock, but the back line seems to love falling to pieces. And the fact that either Giandomenico Mesto or Henrique will be starting (or, yipes, it could be both) isn't going to help that tendency.
Napoli need to find some reserve strength
No, it's not that Rafa Benítez needs to call upon his reserve team to dig a win out at the San Siro -- he doesn't have much to fall back on, anyway, and no one is going to call for Duván Zapata when it was Gonzalo Higuaín that ensured the win at the San Siro last season. Then again, Miguel Britos scored the opener and we certainly don't want him in the starting XI.
What Napoli need is to reach down into their reserves of strength, finding some energy for this match. The regulars are worn out, especially since they've been playing most of the minutes in the midweek matches as well. José Callejón played the full 90 against Slovan, but with his eight goals this season, he's not going to be rested, even though it's clear Ziggy needs a break. Marek Hamšík, too, could do with a rest, but Rafa is unlikely to sit his captain.
These guys are all just trying desperately to make it to the brief winter break. But Milan should be theirs for the taking, should Napoli manage to find that tiny bit of energy hiding somewhere in their bodies. Otherwise, that third place finish -- much less a second-half scudetto run -- is going to look damn near impossible.
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
AC Milan: Diego López; Daniele Bonera, Adil Rami, Philippe Mexès, Pablo Armero; Riccardo Montolivo, Nigel de Jong, Bonaventura; Keisuke Honda, Jérémy Menez, Stephan El Shaarawy
This is exactly the lineup Milan used when losing against Genoa, but what are they going to do? Start Fernando Torres? The rest of their defense isn't exactly adept when it comes to set pieces, either.
Napoli: Rafael; Giandomenico Mesto, Kalidou Koulibaly, Raúl Albiol, Faouzi Ghoulam; Jorginho, David López; José Callejón, Marek Hamšík, Dries Mertens; Gonzalo Higuaín
At a glance
Milan: 7th; 5W 6D 3L; League form: LWDDL
Napoli: 5th; 6W 6D 62; League Form: DDDWW
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