The defending Coppa Italia champions have another challenge on their way to grabbing back-to-back trophies. Napoli host Inter in the quarter-finals, and although the nerazzurri haven't been in the best of form in the league, their oozing, gaping wounds are going to need to be licked -- and what better way to stem the bleeding than to get one over on Napoli?
Perhaps getting one over on Juventus, but Inter don't have that option.
Mancini's ship is sinking fast
In his first stint at Inter, Roberto Mancini led the side in back-to-back-to-back scudetti. He also grabbed two Coppas on the way. So Inter's grizzly old men thought sure, let's bring back a hero. Instead, they brought in a manager that, since taking over from Walter Mazzarri in mid-November, has only brought more ills to the once-great club.
After beating Sassuolo 7-0 in the second round, Inter went to Reggio Emilia on Sunday and got their asses kicked, losing 3-1. That loss follows a 1-0 failure against Torino and a goalless draw against Empoli. World-beaters, these nerazzurri are not.
Trouble is, Inter still have enough up top to threaten, and if these new boys -- Xherdan Shaqiri, Lukas Podolski -- can click with the old guard -- Rodrigo Palacio, Mauro Icardi, Mateo Kovačić -- the side can undoubtedly unnerve many opponents. At the back, however, they're still a little unstable, to say the least, with Mancini having absolutely no idea which four he wants in defense, and sometimes even deciding that he'd prefer a midfielder back there instead.
Once again, Napoli must prove themselves
We all know very well how much Napoli love to scare their fans. On Sunday against Chievo, the Flying Donkeys put themselves in danger, only for Miguel Britos to generally answer their own goal with one of his own. Fortunately Napoli found the winner, but against Udinese in the Coppa two weeks ago, a shaky defense once again got the best of the partenopei. Udinese found an equalizer in extra time, minutes after Marek's fantastic go-ahead goal, and our hearts had to endure a penalty shootout.
That's not the way the Coppa holders should be performing. Fortunately, the papers suggest that this time around, the defense is unlikely to contain Henrique, Britos and Giandomenico Mesto. While Christian Maggio and Raúl Albiol aren't perfect, they're a damned sight better than those guys, and if Kalidou Koulibaly does play, he's likely to pick up the slack.
It also looks like Jorginho will be rested again, with Rafa favoring a more defensively-minded central midfield. Problem is, he may also rest David López, which would mean having to see Walter Gargano and Gokhan Inler playing together once more. Please, Rafa, for the sake of the fans, don't do it -- that pairing makes our heads hurt.
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
You're kidding, right? This is Coppa. Think of your ideal lineup, take pretty much the opposite of that, mix it around, and soon you'll get something close to what Rafa Benítez might put forward. We can tell you, however, that we expect to see both Marek Hamšík and José Callejón, since they were rested against Chievo, but it's possible Gonzalo Higuaín won't get the nod from the start.
As for Roberto Mancini...well he, like Rafa, appreciates a shiny Cup in the trophy cabinet. But he also seems to have no clue what to do with this Inter squad, constantly rotating defenders and switching up his attackers in his preferred 4-2-3-1. Really, it's a roll of the dice on who might play for the visitors.
At a glance
Napoli: 3rd; 11W 6D 4L; League Form: WWWLW
Inter Milan: 13th: 6W 8D 7L; League Form: LLDWD
Inter 2-2 Napoli
Callejón scored. Fredy Guarín scored minutes later. Ziggy put Napoli ahead in the 90th. Hernanes found the equalizer in stoppage time.
Not good enough, Napoli. Let's do better in the Coppa, shall we?
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