Despite Napoli's request for this match to be moved and the logic of playing a match at the same time as the other match that could be crucial to the placement of the second, third, and fourth place teams in Serie A -- and therefore determining who goes to the Champions League next season -- Napoli must play their tilt with league and cup champions Juventus today, then wait to see what happens with Roma and Lazio on Monday. No way that can possibly go wrong for Napoli, right?
Celebrations and Looking Forward
Juventus have other things in mind for this match, with the trophy presentations for their Serie A and Coppa Italia double going on as well as their preparations for their Champions League final taking up most of their time and energy. That gives Napoli a chance to catch them while they're distracted and steal a win, something they could really, really use right now. Being on that side of the "stealing a win" equation would certainly be a nice change, too.
Expect Juve to heavily rotate for this match. Only a handful regulars should be in the lineup -- Gianluigi Buffon has sat out their last two league matches, so needs a runout, and Paul Pogba is still getting to full match fitness and sharpness after his injury. Alvaro Morata and Claudio Marchisio are both virtual locks to start as well, after sitting out the Coppa final with suspensions. Otherwise, every other spot could be turned over, with rare starts expected for Simone Padoin, Kinglsey Coman, Angelo Ogbonna, and a first post-injury start for Kwadwo Asamoah. This is definitely far from Juventus' strongest side, meaning they'll be there for the taking if Napoli can just reach out and take the chance.
Scraping For Hope
Let's just lay this out simply: if Napoli want any realistic hope of making the Champions League, they have to win this match. Draw, and a Lazio win against Roma knocks them out of contention. Lose, and a draw in the capital derby knocks Napoli out. Even a win isn't a guarantee, as a Lazio win would keep them three points clear and force Napoli to win their head-to-head season finale, but at least that keeps Napoli's fate in their hands. Lose or draw, and that fate can -- and likely will -- be determined in another team's match, and that's not a situation anyone wants to be in.
They'll have to do it without Kalidou Koulibaly, who is suspended after picking up his eighth yellow card of the season. They're also still missing the usual trio of likely-outcast reserves, though if any of De Guzman, Zuniga, or Michu played a role in this match anyways, things likely had gone horribly wrong. Hopefully we see as strong a Napoli lineup as possible tomorrow and witness the side take the match to Juventus. Anything less and Napoli run the risk of dropping points, which they can in no way afford to do.
Please don't eff this up, Rafa. You're not here for much longer. Give us something nice on your way out.
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
Juventus: Buffon; Padoin, Barzagli, Ogbonna, Asamoah; Pogba, Marchisio, Sturaro; Pereyra; Coman, Morata
Napoli: Anudjar; Maggio, Albiol, Britos, Ghoulam; Lopez, Inler; Callejon, Hamsik, Mertens; Higuain
At A Glance
Juventus: 1st (champions); 23W 8D 3L; League Form: WDWWL
Napoli: 4th; 18W 9D 9L; League Form: WDWLW
TV: Premium Calcio/HD, Sky Calcio 1, Sky Sport 1 HD Italia (Italy), BT Sport 2 (U.K.)
Online: beIN Sports Connect (U.S. & Canada), Premium Play, Sky Go Italia (Italy)
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