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Napoli v. Paris Saint-Germain Friendly Preview: Welcome home, lads

Two of Napoli's biggest stars in recent years are coming home for a visit... and oh yeah, there's a match to play, too.

I miss this.
I miss this.
Mike Hewitt

Enjoy "friendly cup" matches? Like mostly-meaningless matches between two high-profile teams? Fascinated by star players returning to the stadiums that made them famous while wearing the wrong shirt?

Boy do we have a match for you.

Napoli
v. Paris Saint-GermainAugust 11, 2014 2000 CET, 1400 EST Stadio San PaoloNaples, Italy
Coming Home At Long Last

Let's just get this out of the way right up front: the most meaningful thing about this match to most people will be Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi coming back to the Stadio San Paolo for the first time since they went to Paris Saint-Germain. Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik put Napoli back on the map, and then Cavani showed up and helped them take the whole setup to a new and wonderful level. Losing the pair was brutally difficult for Napoli fans, but they'll get a touching and tissue-requiring moment when Lavezzi, Cavani, and Hamsik inevitably have a happy reunion moment during warmups before the match.

From PSG's perspective, though, this is a little bit of an awkward match. The Ligue 1 season has already started in France, you see, with the defending champions held to a 2-2 draw by Reims on Friday. With their home debut coming up on Saturday against Bastia, it's tough to imagine PSG going all-out in this one, and we'll probably only see something vaguely resembling their starting lineup for a half or so before the reserves come flooding in, and that's assuming that the starters are even out at the beginning of the match.

That means that instead of lots of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marco Veratti, and Thiago Silva, we'll get a heavier dose of Lavezzi, Yohan Cabaye, and Sergue Aurier. Then again, that's a good enough "reserve" force that most teams would be happy to have them as starters, but that's what having oilbucks will do for your depth chart. Still, though, don't expect to see PSG do much more than go through the motions on this one. It means far less to them than it does Napoli thanks to their season already being underway.

More Than A Dress Rehearsal

For Napoli, this match is far more important than a simple reunion match or "friendly cup" event. Rafa Benitez has called this a "dress rehearsal" for their tie against Athletic Bilbao, but it's even more than just that. Even if PSG mostly play their reserves, they're still a good enough team to stack up well and give most other sides a run for their money. If Napoli can beat them convincingly, that will go a long ways towards helping prove that they can hang with any team in Europe.

Given the importance of the situation, Rafa has announced a very strong squad for the occasion:

Goalkeepers: Rafael Cabral, Mariano Andujar, Roberto Colombo

Defenders: Christian Maggio, Giandomenico Mesto, Henrique Buss, Camilo Zuniga, Faouzi Ghoulam, Kalidou Koulibaly, Raul Albiol, Miguel Britos, Federico Fernandez

Midfielders: Josip Radosevic, Jorginho, Blerim Dzemaili, Gokhan Inler, Walter Gargano, Eduardo Vargas, Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens, Jose Callejon, Marek Hamsik

Forwards: Goran Pandev, Michu, Duvan Zapata, Gonzalo Higuain

Expect as close to a full-strength lineup as possible, excepting Gonzalo Higuain and Federico Fernandez, as they just haven't been back in training long enough yet to start. Well, also the potentially impending sale in the case of Fernandez. Expect either Duvan Zapata or Michu to start the match (likely Zapata as he's been better in pre-season) and Higuain to come on to lead the line at halftime. Faouzi Ghoulam and Gokhan Inler should also reprise their starting spots from the horror-show experiments that have been Miguel Britos and Walter Gargano the last couple of matches.

Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong

Napoli (4-2-3-1): Rafael; Maggio, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Jorginho, Inler; Callejon, Hamsik, Mertens; Zapata

Paris Saint-Germain (4-3-3): Douchez; Aurier, Luiz, Marquinhos, Maxwell; Cabaye, Matuidi, Verratti; Lucas, Cavani, Lavezzi

Watch It

The match will start Monday at 8:00 PM CET/2:00 PM EST. Television coverage will be on Sky Calcio 1 in Italy, beIN Sports 1 in France, and beIN Sports USA 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.