First place is right there. If Napoli can beat Inter at the San Paolo, then the partenopei will be in the driver's seat in Serie A. Who the heck saw that coming a few months ago?
Staring opportunity in the face
Napoli are facing the first place team in Serie A for the third time already this season. In their second match of the season, they drew Sampdoria 2-2. In October, they dominated Fiorentina in a 2-1 win at the San Paolo that, honestly, played like a match with a much wider margin of victory. Against Inter, Napoli have a chance to not just knock the first place team off the top of the table for a third time, but to replace them this time around.
This is Napoli's biggest match of the season so far -- no small thing in a season when they've already had so many. Going first in the table would be huge for Napoli right now, the culmination of so much success over the last two months, the validation of so much work. This is the must-win of all must-wins -- get the job done, and they won't just be on top of the table. They'll have proved that they are the best team in Italy right now.
Of course, Inter Milan won't go quietly into that good night. They are, of course, the only team in Italy better than Napoli right now, with nine wins and three draws this season compared to Napoli's eight and four, with both teams having lost exactly one match.
The key difference, however, may come from the circumstances of those losses. Napoli's loss was way back at the beginning of the season when they were still finding their feet with a rebuilt side and new manager. Inter's loss was more recent, a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Fiorentina, a match that exposed weaknesses in Roberto Mancini's side that Napoli are well-suited to exploit. Mancini will have a tough task to make sure that he sets his team up in a way that will keep Napoli from being at their ruthless best -- but finding some way, any way, to win has been rather a specialty of Inter's this season.
They'll have to do so without the services of Geoffrey Kondogbia, their big-money midfield signing this past summer who is suffering from muscular issues after Inter's 4-0 win over Frosinone. He's been in fine form for the past month or so after getting off to a slow start in Milan, so he'll be a big miss in Inter's midfield. Instead they'll rely on the combative pairing of Gary Medel and Felipe Melo, two walking yellow cards and the latter of whom made waves this week when he said that Inter should "beat up" Gonzalo Higuain. That quote did not play well with Napoli's dressing room -- as if they needed more motivation to win this match emphatically.
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
Inter Milan: Handanovic; Nagatomo, Miranda, Murillo, Telles; Melo, Medel, Guarin; Ljajic; Jovetic, Icardi
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Jorginho, Hamsik; Callejon, Higuain, Insigne
At A Glance
Inter Milan: 1st; 9W 3D 1L; League Form: WWWWD
Napoli: 2nd; 8W 4D 1L; League Form: WWDWW
TV: beIN Sports (U.S. & Canada), Sky Calcio 1, Sky Sport 1 HD Italia (Italy), BT Sport Europe (U.K.), RAI International
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