Napoli are finally starting to build real momentum and quality in this Serie A season. They face a tough test on Sunday, though, as they have to head to the San Siro to take on a Milan side desperate to become relevant again. A win would be huge for either team at this point in the season -- have Napoli done enough to make sure they get the job done?
Riding the wave
Napoli are on quite a high right now, having dominated Juventus and Lazio in two of their last three league matches, and with two decisive Europa League wins sandwiching those results. Sure, there's the flat-as-a-pancake draw with Carpi in the middle of all that, but not every sandwich has every layer just right.
Awkward, maybe-the-writer-should-have-a-snack analogies aside, Napoli are playing extraordinarily well right now, and have more momentum behind them coming into this match than it feels like they've had in a long time. This is the point under Rafa Benitez when Napoli would slip on a banana peel right out of the gates and continue to do so all match long -- that means this is a real test to see if Maurizio Sarri is really an improvement over Rafa or not. Come the end of the season, when we're looking back for big moments, this is a match that we might wind up looking to as a turning point, for good or for ill.
Fortunately, Napoli come into this match about as healthy as can be. Marek Hamsik, Lorenzo Insigne, and Elseid Hysaj are all back in the squad after being left at home for the midweek Europa match. Pepe Reina is a slight doubt with some kind of injury issue, but he is expected to be able to play. Otherwise, there may be a few tired legs in the side, but with the international break beckoning Napoli should easily be able to get a full match out of everyone involved.
Stopping and starting
Milan have had a strange season, one that fans have called "irritating." Between injuries, suspensions, and just plain bizarre results, they can't maintain any sort of momentum or quality this season. Milan actually have a pretty good and dangerous side for once this season, but between bad luck and their inability to get out of their own way at times, they haven't been able to really "click" yet this season.
That, of course, is dangerous to deal with. Especially as Milan are starting to finally get healthier, that "click" could come at any time. Napoli will certainly come into this match looking to play their game first and worry about the rest later, but they'll need to be at least somewhat wary about how Milan are playing. If they can put it together, Napoli could be in a heap of trouble.
Health-wise, Milan are improving, but still rough. Mario Balotelli is out, as are Jeremy Menez, M'Baye Niang, and likely both Keisuke Honda and Philippe Mexes. Alessio Romagnoli is suspended for the match after being sent off against Genoa last weekend, so Napoli dodge a bit of a bullet there as he's been their best defender by a long ways. One player to watch besides the obvious big names is Juraj Kucka -- the Slovakian has comfortably been Milan's best midfielder at both ends of the pitch, and he's constantly involved and causing headaches for Milan's opponents. Unless Allan can keep him in check, he could cause a lot of problems in this match.
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
AC Milan: Lopez; De Sciglio, Zapata, Ely, Antonelli; Kucka, Montolivo, Bonaventura; Suso; Adriano, Bacca
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Jorginho, Hamsik; Callejon, Higuain, Insigne
At A Glance
AC Milan: 11th; 3 W 0 D 3 L; League Form: LWWLW
Napoli: 10th; 2 W 3 D 1 L; League Form: WDWDD
TV: Sky Calcio 1, Sky Sport 1 HD Italia (Italy), BT Sport Europe (U.K.), RAI International
Online: Sky Go Italia (Italy)
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, and we'll have updates of the most important events on our Facebook page, which you should definitely like.