With both sides stinging from painful Europa League knockout losses on Thursday, this has every chance to turn in to an ugly slugfest, especially as the last meeting between these two sides was a very chippy affair. With the added flair of this being a preview of the Coppa Italia final, all eyes will be on Naples come Sunday evening.
After establishing themselves as a contender for Champions League places in Serie A for most of the season, Fiorentina have been fading a bit of late. They've won just three times in their last ten matches, and have gone from breathing down Napoli's neck to sitting ten points adrift and looking unlikely to close the gap. In fact, with both Inter Milan and Parma playing exceptionally well at late, Fiorentina's grasp of even a Europa League spot is suddenly looking very tenuous.
Part of that problem has been listless play up front with Giuseppi Rossi out injured and Alessandro Matri playing like he's only got one leg, but with Mario Gomez finally getting healthy and rounding in to form, their fortunes may soon improve. Most of the rest of their starting lineup is healthy and ready to rock, though who starts in midfield is certainly up in the air, with rotation being the buzzword of late, especially since the addition of Anderson on loan from Manchester United.
Where they can really hurt Napoli is out wide. Juan Cuadrado and Manuel Pasqual are serious threats from wide areas, and Fiorentina have various midfielders that like to float wide a bit and cut in. With Christian Maggio out and either Anthony Reveillere or Henrique Buss at right back, Napoli could be very vulnerable to attacks from the edges of the pitch.
Lost At Sea?
Let's cut straight to the point: Napoli has to, has to, HAS TO come out and make a statement in this match. The Europa League is gone, so there's no more distractions, no more excuses. Now is the time to set aside all the disappointment of the last few months, go out, kick ass, and take names.
There's been no change in the injury situation, so the only lineup questions are on who Rafa sees as the most fitting and in-form option. Marek Hamsik and Jose Callejon were on the bench on Thursday, so they're certain inclusions, as is Jorginho in central midfield. Henrique feels like a lock as well, as it seems as though he's the new favorite of Rafa Benitez. Beyond that, we should see as close to a first-choice lineup as possible.
No matter if Fiorentina go with a 3-5-2 or some variation of a 4-3-3, Napoli will need to focus on quality attacking movement. Overlapping runs, interchange, and switching passes are all things that Fiorentina have struggled with mightily of late, and Napoli have the right players in hand to take full advantage. If they can get an early rhythm and exploit that weakness, they could blow this one wide open.
Napoli (4-2-3-1): Reina; Reveillere, Henrique, Albiol, Ghoulam; Jorginho, Inler; Callejon, Hamsik, Insigne; Higuain
Fiorentina (3-5-2): Neto; Tomovic, Savic, Diakite; Cuadrado, Anderson, Valero, Pizarro, Pasqual; Gomez, Matri
At a glance
Napoli: 3rd; 17W 7D 4L; League Form: WWDDW
Fiorentina: 4th; 14W, 6D, 8L; League Form: WLLDL
In October, the two sides exchanged three first-half goals in Florence, with the advantage breaking Napoli's way. Goals for Jose Callejon and Dries Mertens (both assisted by Gonzalo Higuain) bracketed a Giuseppe Rossi penalty. The second half was more notable for its eight yellow cards than the quality of play, which included sendings-off for Juan Cuadrado and Christian Maggio. On the whole, it was a truly bizarre match.
The match will start Sunday at 6:30 PM CET/1:30 PM EST. Television coverage will be on Sky Calcio 3 in Italy, ESPN UK in the UK, and beIN Sports Play (online stream) in America. Other live viewing options can be found here (link is to LST Serie A section until sepcified), 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.