This is it. The final match. The last chance. On Sunday, Napoli face Lazio in a match that will see the winner finish third in Serie A. That place is vital, as it offers with it a place in the Champions League playoff round, the last step prior to the coveted group stage, a much-coveted place to be in Europe worth tens of millions of euros to each team who makes it there.
The situation is this: with one match to go, Napoli are in fourth place with 63 points. Lazio are in third with 66. While Lazio hold a goal differential edge, that doesn't immediately matter in Serie A. In Serie A, the head-to-head record between the two clubs is taken as the first tiebreaker -- and Napoli would hold that tiebreaker if they win. With a win on Sunday, both Napoli and Lazio would end the season on 66 points, and the vesuviani would be the ones preparing for the Champions League playoff round in August.
Everything is on the line. Win, and glory can be attained. Lose, and Napoli are mired in the Europa League once more. It's a fun competition, make no mistake, but it's not the one Napoli want to be in. Not the one they should be in, that they need to be in to take the steps forward that they want to and become a power in Europe.
To that end, Napoli cannot take any moment of Sunday's match easy. They cannot lose focus. They cannot make mistakes. They have to win at all costs. That must be sharp, they must be together, they must play at their best one more time.
Napoli will have to put out as strong a side as possible. Raul Albiol is a question mark with a minor knee issue, and Miguel Britos is suspended for the first of his three matches for that idiotic headbutt on Alvaro Morata. Jonathan De Guzman, Camilo Zuniga, and Michu remain out as well. Lazio are missing Stefan Radu, and both Lucas Biglia and Miroslav Klose are strong doubts with injuries.
On form, Napoli are in an odd, but hopeful place. They haven't played well of late, but neither have Lazio. Napoli will also have a packed Stadio San Paolo behind them, where they haven't lost in the league since January. Can they keep up the better trend while ignoring the lesser? There's only one way to find out.
Hope Is a dreadful, wonderful thing -- it can raise hopes, but also lead to utter ruin. And yet, all we have right now is hope. Please, Napoli, don't turn the warmth of this hope and these dreams of Champions League glory turn in to heartache and tears. Give us this one thing to cling to without it turning to ashes in our hands.
Match Date/Time: Sunday, 8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET
TV: beIN Sports en Español (U.S.), Sky Sport 1 HD Italia, Sky Calcio 1, Premium Calcio 1 (Italy), BT Sport 1 (U.K.), RAI International
Online: Fubo TV, beIN Sports Connect (U.S. & Canada), Sky Go Italia, Premium Play (Italy)
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