Sometimes we all need a different perspective on things. Even in football, it can be helpful to get an outsider's perspective on one's own team -- after all, our azzurri colored glasses sometimes blind us to things we'd rather not see. With that in mind, we're starting a new feature -- when we have another site or writer we can collaborate with, like with the existing Q&A's we do, we'll have a guest-written features to help bring that outside perspective to the fore. Be it that writer's view on Napoli in general, the match itself, a rivalry, or whatever else, they'll be given free reign to tell us how they see things.
This week, we've got Viola Nation managing editor and boss lady extraordinaire Chloe Beresford, who brings an intriguingly nuanced take on what's become a fun if unofficial rivalry in Serie A between Napoli and Fiorentina.
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There are certainly mixed feelings from Fiorentina fans heading into this behemoth of a game with the Partenopei. On one hand, Napoli have been pretty dominant over the viola in recent times. Last season they took all six points from us, plus there was that 3-0 defeat in the Coppa Italia final at the end of the season before. However, Napoli and Fiorentina have in some ways had similar fortunes in recent months. Both teams lost at the Semi Final stage of the Europa League, and both lost their manager in the summer. The replacements that were appointed in pre-season in Paulo Sousa and Maurizio Sarri although different, are both untested at the top end of Serie A.
So despite the poor recent record, there have been a lot of changes in Florence and Naples which does wipe the slate clean a little. Although Napoli have made a slow start, it seems that they are now gathering pace and they seem like one of those teams who no matter how well they are playing, are always scary to come up against. Fiorentina fans suffer from perpetual anxiety about the team, having gotten their hopes up and been burned so many times before. Whilst being capolista is unexpected and fantastic, the fear that it could all come crashing down at any moment is a very real one. Nightmare scenarios of a 1-0 Fiorentina lead swiftly cancelled out by a Lewandowski style Higuain goal flurry are at the forefront of everyone's minds.
The story of Sarri's rise to becoming Napoli manager is a great one, and with his roots in the lower leagues of Tuscany, many Fiorentina fans may just have a small soft spot for him. Certainly at the start of the season when Napoli only had two points from the first three games and Diego Maradona started throwing his considerable weight in on the argument, things weren't looking good for the man who brought old school smoking back to the dugout. In fact, the form of Lorenzo Insigne alone is enough to drive me as a non-smoker taking a leaf out of Sarri's book and reach for a pack of Marlboro Red (don't smoke, kids - it's bad for your health)
If Sarri can bring success to Napoli, (as long as it isn't at the expense of Fiorentina) it will feel like a victory for football - that a seasoned lower league man can rise to the top, even if it has taken him 25 years to do it. I much prefer Sarri to your previous guy, Rafa Benitez who grates on me immensely. Now there is a man who wholeheartedly believes in his own hype.
The fact that Napoli have proved that they aren't invincible this season is just giving the Fiorentina fans enough of a glimmer of hope to think that they might just be able to get a result on Sunday. We are looking on this game and the Roma game next Sunday as a benchmark to see whether the team are really good enough to be scudetto contenders. If both teams play well in the game, it will serve as a fantastic advert for Serie A which has already been so captivating this year. If Fiorentina capitulate, it may make the SAL-U-TA-TE LA CAPO-LISTA chants that have been ringing out over the last week or so seem a little embarrassing - but not nearly as embarrassing as the newly released Napoli calendar. (seriously, Google it if you don't believe me) If Fiorentina win on Sunday, Naples won't have seen an eruption like it since Vesuvius last blew in 1944.
So good luck for the rest of the season, but in all honesty, I hope we crush you on Sunday!