With Napoli focused on reaching at least third place in the Serie A table, this is a match that they need to win. Playing away at Empoli isn't the easiest task in the world, but with their recent form they certainly stand a good chance. Can they keep focused and not fall prey to some of the mis-steps Napoli has suffered against low-table clubs this season?
Tough Nut To Crack
Empoli have, despite their lowly position in the table, proven to be a very difficult opponent to beat this season. They've lost just nine times all season, only one more than Napoli even though there's 12 table placed between them and less than seven teams between them. Their table standing is so low mostly because they also can't win many matches, but their propensity for earning draws has put them in to a position of safety in the Serie A table, with only a disastrous finish to their season and a miracle for Cagliari or Cesena seeing them relegated now.
This match also serves as another chance for Napoli to evaluate Luigi Sepe and Mirko Valdifiori first hand. The former is Napoli's loanee goalkeeper who has impressed all season long, earning a new contract with the partenopei last month and possibly a chance at playing a big role in Naples in the near future. The latter is believed to be a midfield target for the club, though rumors of a deal being imminent have cooled significantly in recent weeks. Both did well when the two sides faced off in December, and a second quality performance could directly impact their potential futures with Napoli.
Pushing To Achieve
Napoli are in even more of a must-win scenario than they were earlier in the week, with both Roma and Lazio winning their matches. Now Napoli must win just to keep pace, or risk falling too far behind to easily close the gap at this late date. As in all their recent matches, the message is simple: just #$@ing win.
They'll have to do the job without Ivan Strinic, who misses out with an ankle injury alongside the still-out Jonathan De Guzman and Camilo Zuniga. Christian Maggio is available again, though, at least giving Napoli a starting-quality right back after doing without for the last two matches, so that's a benefit if nothing else. Hopefully he can do something to start earning that shiny new contract.
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
Empoli: Sepe; Hysaj, Tonelli, Rugani, Rui; Vecino, Valdifiori, Croce; Saponara; Pucciarelli, Maccarone
Napoli: Andujar; Maggio, Koulibaly, Britos, Ghoulam; Gargano, Jorginho; Gabbiadini, Hamsik, Mertens; Higuain
At A Glance
Empoli: 16th; 6W 17D 9L; League Form: DDLLWD
Napoli: 4th; 16W 8D 8L; League Form: WWWLDL
When Last We Met: Napoli 2-2 Empoli
Two excellent goals scored by Napoli in the last half hour of the match couldn't overcome two goals scored by Empoli in the first hour. Napoli got off to a miserable start, getting caught out on a counter to give up the first goal and completely screwed up their defending of a corner -- shock! -- and had a mountain to climb. They mounted a furious comeback, but came up short thanks to a lack of attackers on the bench. The full recap, for those brave enough to revisit the match, is here.
TV: beIN Sports (U.S. & Canada), Sky Calcio 1, Sky Sport 1 HD, Premium Calcio/HD (Italy), ESPN UK /HD (U.K.)
Online: Fubo TV, beIN Sports Connect (U.S. & Canada), Sky Go Italia, Premium Play (Italy)
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