If Napoli are going to finish in the top three of Serie A this season, they pretty much can't afford to lose this match against AC Milan, especially not at home. No matter what the distractions, focuses on other competitions, or whatever other possible excuses there are, Napoli absolutely must win this match at all costs. You hear that, Rafa? All. Costs.
Nothing Left To Lose
Milan are a side fallen from grace, trying to find any way possible to remain remotely relevant. Currently in the bottom half of the Serie A table, there's really nowhere left to go but up, and they're hoping that upwards trajectory starts next season after their current up-in-the-air sale situation gets resolved. For now, though, with no hope of finishing anywhere but midtable, Milan have little left to do but coast to the end of the season. That leaves them a dangerous side, as clubs with nothing to play for often give clubs fighting for something a whole lot of problems, because the freedom of no pressure can be awfully liberating.
Fortunately for Napoli, Milan are dealing with an injury and suspension crisis. Jeremy Menez, Philippe Mexes, and Ignazio Abate are all suspended for this match, with Menez out for three more after it. They're also missing Adil Rami, Stephan El Shaarawy, Suso, Luca Antonelli, Michael Essien, and Riccardo Montolivo through injury, leaving them awfully thin all over the pitch, but especially in defense. That could be all the opening Napoli need to win this match, but Milan will still be pushing to cause an upset.
One Last Gasp
All of Napoli's positive momentum from the training retreat got frittered away midweek when they lost to Empoli, forcing them in to desperation mode in the league. Not that every match wasn't already basically a must-win, but now it's basically a win-or-you're-done proposition, which isn't exactly a fun thought when you look at the rest of Napoli's schedule, starting with this match with an opponent Napoli run hot and cold against.
The added wrinkle of having to rest players and prepare for the first leg of the Europa League semifinal against Dnipro only makes this match much more complicated, especially since a couple of players that would be useful for such a situation are either out injured or limited by injury. Ivan Strinic is one of those, just coming back from the ankle injury that kept him out midweek, but unlikely to be fit to start, which is a shame because Faouzi Ghoulam could probably use a day off right now.
What matters the most, though, is that Napoli absolutely cannot lose focus. Sure, this Milan team isn't very good. But they've got plenty of talent still left in the side, and if Napoli go to sleep at all, they're opportunistic enough to make the partenopei pay for it. Given that they've gone to sleep a little bit too often of late, that's a truly dangerous proposition.
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
AC Milan: Lopez; Bonera, Paletta, Bochetti, De Sciglio; De Jong, Poli, Van Ginkel; Honda, Destro, Bonaventura
Napoli: Andujar; Maggio, Albiol, Britos, Ghoulam; Inler, Lopez; Callejon, Gabbiadini, Insigne; Higuain
At A Glance
AC Milan: 11th; 10W 13D 10L; League Form: LLDDWW
Napoli: 4th; 16W 8D 9L; League Form: LWWWLD
TV: beIN Sports (U.S. & Canada), Sky Calcio 1, Sky Sport 1 HD Italia, Premium Calcio/HD (Italy), BT Sport 1 (U.K.), RAI International
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