We've passed the point where wit and snark can cover up the agony of the season so far. Napoli have to beat Sassuolo today. That's the long and short of it. Just win. Just do it. Don't do anything else. Win. Please. I'm begging you.
A Season Too Far
Sassuolo were only barely able to stave off relegation a season ago, and based on early results and performances they may be on the same path again. They haven't scored a match since a 1-1 draw against Cagliari in their first match of the season, then got absolutely blasted, hammered, and torn to shreds by Inter Milan, with that match ending at a 7-0 scoreline that could easily have been double that if Inter had kept up the pressure in the second half.
The Neroverdi have played two scoreless draws since then, seemingly boring their opponents to death in the process. Despite some praise for holding Fiorentina at midweek, last season's Coppa Italia runner-ups were without their top two strikers thanks to injuries. In fact, Fiorentina were more dire on Wednesday than Napoli have been at any point this season (that says a lot!), and Sassuolo still couldn't find a goal with a map and GPS directions.
Eusebio Di Francesco was able to rescue Sassuolo from the drop last season after taking over as the club's manager in March, but he seems to have run out of magic this season. His 4-3-3 has been stagnant, uncreative, and ineffective. They've managed to stop leaking goals since Inter, but it's not like Sampdoria or Fiorentina have been striking much fear in to their opponents this season. Well, not that Napoli have either, but the point still stands.
Not helping things for Sassuolo is the fact that they've been missing last season's offensive stud Domenico Berardi since the Inter match. The starlet got himself sent off late in the match for throwing an elbow at Juan Jesus' throat, and will be sitting out the last of a three match suspension that frankly could have been longer given the nature of the foul. That's left the onus of the attack on Simone Zaza, who has not coped well with the pressure.
Former Napoli captain Paolo Cannavaro returned to the lineup against Fiorentina after serving his own red card suspension, and Sassuolo have their best defender back in the lineup again. Of course, Napoli fans know that no matter how much they love Cannavaro, he's a broken shell of the center back he once was, so him being their best defender is not a great thing for Sassuolo. They just hope Cannavaro does better than he did against Napoli in February, when he was at least partially at fault for every partenopei goal as his old club gave his new one an absolute thrashing.
Just. Freaking. Win.
Jorginho is back and will probably start. Some reports from Italy suggest that his return will be one of several changes made to the lineup as Gonzalo Higuain and Christian Maggio rotate back in to the side and Rafa Benitez tinkers with other spots to get the team ticking. Walter Gargano will probably keep starting because why not, right?
Napoli have to win. They don't just need to win, they have to win. If they don't, a draw or (worse) a loss will leave Napoli in the precarious position of being at least ten points behind Juventus and Roma, and at least four (more likely six or seven) points out of third. That doesn't seem like much, especially early in the season, but as Napoli learned last season, every point dropped hurts down the stretch. Being that far behind this early could effectively end any hope Napoli have of winning Serie A (hah!), even if they were to turn things around right away and go on a long winning streak.
Just win. Don't make us hurt any more. Win this freaking match, then win another, then win another, then win some more.
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
Sassuolo: Consigli; Vrsaljko, Antei, Cannavaro, Peluso; Taider, Magnanelli, Biondini; Floro Flores, Zaza, Sansone
Napoli: Rafael; Maggio, Albiol, Koulibaly, Zuniga; Jorginho, Gargano; Callejon, Hamsik, Insigne; Higuain
At a glance
Sassuolo: 18th; 0W, 3D, 1L; League Form: DDLD
Napoli: 10th; 1W 1D 2L; League Form: DLLW
The match will start Sunday at 12:30 PM CET/6:30 AM EST. Television coverage will be on Premium Calcio in Italy, ESPN UK in the UK, and RAI International or beIN Sports Connect online streaming (unless they kill their coverage at the last minute again) 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.