With Napoli's form in a brutal struggle, to put it very kindly, this match against Fiorentina is huge in terms of Napoli being able to qualify for Europe. It also has the added wrinkle of pitting last season's two Coppa Italia finalists against each other just days after both clubs were knocked out of the competition in the semi-finals, both sides licking their wounds after demoralizing losses. With the teams just two points apart and the end of the season looming, there's an awful lot on the line in Naples.
Drowning in Viola
Fiorentina have been in excellent form of late, racing up the table and potentially pushing for a Champions League spot if their rise continues. Vincenzo Montella has his side playing some incredible football right now, not least of which has been the top-shelf play of Mohammed Salah. The Egyptian international has replaced Juan Cuadrado without a hitch, and if anything he's opened up new and better attacking options for the Viola since joining from Chelsea on loan in January.
Keeping Salah and his electric pace in check is going to be a tough task for Napoli, especially if Fiorentina try to work him in against Christian Maggio, who has been anything but effective against pacy players this season. Even if Napoli go with another option at right back, they don't have anyone at the position who can match him for speed. Fortunately, Napoli do get one break against Fiorentina's attack: striker Khouma Babacar suffered a muscular injury in training that will keep him out of this match.
For the opposing viewpoint, go check out Viola Nation's preview.
We've Reached Low Tide
While Fiorentina may be surging, Napoli are doing anything but. The players and staff have been in a forced training retreat since the loss to Lazio, something that made Rafa Benitez try -- and fail -- to resign. The club's form is beyond terrible, with no wins in Italy since February, some horrible play on the pitch, and dubious decision making on the touchline from the manager.
With Napoli falling down the table and watching all their goals for the season slip between their fingers, they have to find a way to win this match. If they do, they'll pass Fiorentina and keep themselves competitive down the stretch of the season as the matches -- mostly -- get a little easier. If not ... well, the season was fun while it lasted.
Let's hope the tide starts to rise, soon.
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
Fiorentina: Neto; Richards, Gonzalo, Basanta, Pasqual; Kurtic, Badelj, Fernandez; Diamanti, Gomez, Salah
Napoli: Andujar; Maggio, Koulibaly, Britos, Strinic; Gargano, Lopez; Mertens, Gabbiadini, Insigne; Zapata
At A Glance
Fiorentina: 4th; 13W 10D 6L; League Form: WDWLW
Napoli: 3rd; 13W 8D 8L; League Form: LDLDL
When Last We Met: Fiorentina 0-1 Napoli
Napoli won the last time these two teams faced off, Napoli came away with a win at a crucial time, but at a very high cost. Lorenzo Insigne, who had been rounding in to some magnificent form, tore his ACL after a legal -- if sloppy -- challenge that saw him land awkwardly. He's only just coming back from that injury, and it's not hard to imagine that some tough recent stretches for the club might have been better with Insigne healthy, though who knows if Napoli would have bought Manolo Gabbiadini if Insigne hadn't gotten hurt? The full recap is here should you wish to relive it.
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