Let's travel back in time for a minute, shall we? Specifically, let's head back to April 3, 2011. It was another early Sunday matchup for Napoli and Lazio, and the first half had those of us in the U.S. wondering why on earth we were out of bed. Before the hour mark, Lazio were up 2-0.
Then both sides had some sort of nervous breakdown. Andrea Dossena scored, which could tell you all you needed to know about this match. Edinson Cavani equalized two minutes later...only for Salvatore Aronica to put the ball into his own net. Of course. Then El Matador won a penalty, Lazio had a man sent off and it was 3-3. Cavani completed his hat-trick in the 87th minute, with Napoli winning 4-3.
It's time for Napoli to bring back that magic
I bring up this story because I remember how much I loved that match, the finger-biting thrills, my desperate attempts to not scream and wake the rest of the house at 5 a.m. Most of all though, I remember the feeling of possibility, the belief that Napoli were a side that could produce anything, at any time, any place.
The partenopei haven't quite shown that same spark this season. Sure, they're fourth, just a point off Lazio in third, but the feeling that they've got the ability to upset any side at any point just isn't there. And no, comebacks to earn draws against the likes of Empoli and Sampdoria don't count.
But there's still reason to have hope going into this encounter. This is still the same -- actually, the slightly better -- team that dug deep to beat Juventus in the SuperCoppa. This is still the side that beat Roma. And the vast majority of these players were around to beat Lazio 4-2 last season -- not once, but twice. Add all that to this bit of good news...
Lazio are damaged goods
...Felipe Anderson is out injured.
Yes. The brilliant Brazilian, the man that's been completely scorching the opposition, the 21-year-old with five goals and five assists in five matches -- he won't be able to face Napoli. Ok everyone, time to let out that big breath you'd been holding.
That doesn't mean Lazio aren't still dangerous, of course, but it's interesting that their six-game unbeaten run almost perfectly coincides with Felipe Anderson's hot streak. Prior to that, it was Filip Djordjević's impressive form that had Lazio unbeatable. Will it be Miroslav Klose's turn, now?
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
Lazio: Erit Berisha; Luis Pedro Cavanda, Ștefan Radu, Lorik Cana, Dušan Basta; Lucas Biglia, Marco Parolo; Keita, Stefano Mauri, Antonio Candreva; Filip Djordjević
In addition to missing Felipe Anderson, Lazio are also without Stefan de Vrij. Again, Napoli will not complain. That leaves the gruesome twosome of Ștefan Radu and Lorik Cana in central midfield, so odds are someone's getting a red card, right?
Napoli: Rafael; Ivan Strinić, Raúl Albiol, Kalidou Koulibaly, Christian Maggio; David López, Walter Gargano; Dries Mertens, Marek Hamšík, José Callejón; Gonzalo Higuaín
There's no real reason we shouldn't see newcomer Ivan Strinić in the side -- after all, he was brought in to cover for Faouzi Ghoulam and guess what? There is no Ghoulam. As for the midfield duo, Rafa Benítez looks wedded to David López and Walter Gargano, no matter how much some of us love Jorginho. As for Dries Mertens, he could be saved for next week's Coppa Italia match, but this should really be the one he's starting.
At a glance
Lazio: 3rd; 9W 4D 5L; League Form: DWDWW
Napoli: 3rd; 8W 6D 4L; League Form: LWWLD
Well. This could look better.
TV: Premium Calcio (Italy); BT Sport 1 (UK); RAI International. God forbid beIN not play infomercials at this time. Or Real Madrid games.
Online: Sky Go Italia, Premium Play (Italy)
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