We're just three matches into the season, and Napoli are already facing a must-win situation heading into their away match against Empoli. That comes courtesy of earning just one point so far this season, thanks to throwing away a two-goal lead against Sampdoria and giving up a last-minute winner in the opener against Sassuolo.
It's been a nightmarish start, and one Napoli fans would like to start getting out of as soon as possible. With a trip to winless Empoli, now might be the time to do just that.
Sorry without Sarri
That was a terrible joke, and I'm not at all Sarri for it. Er, sorry. Yeah. That one.
Seriously though, Empoli have been pretty rough without Maurizio Sarri this season. They were a shockingly-strong Chievo's first victim this season, then were thoroughly outplayed by Milan before the break, despite a flatteringly close scoreline. Marco Giampaolo hasn't exactly found life in Empoli as charmed as Sarri did, and is struggling to get his side playing as well as his predecessor on the other end of the touchline did.
Not helping matters is that they're a little battered by injury at the moment. Their best attacker, Riccardo Saponara, is at less than 100% after a training knock, and several other rotation regulars have been limited with injuries and knocks and strains and niggles. Their midfield is thin enough that there's a very real chance that Napoli loanee Raffaele Maiello gets some serious playing time in this match, and he's really not that good.
Win or else
Here we are, week three of the season, and Napoli are already in "win or else" mode. A loss and a draw in their first two matches have left Napoli in a must-win situation, and the fact that it comes against Maurizio Sarri's old team is only mildly ironic.
Still, no matter who it is, Napoli have to win this match. If they don't, that short leash Sarri has to be on will get dramatically shorter. They have some degree of breathing room with Juventus' slow start, but that won't last long, and they need to start piling on points. Especially with the Europa League looming midweek, there's no more breaking-in time to be had. It's time to put up or shut up.
In terms of squad news, the news is mostly good. Elseid Hysaj was rested despite being called in by Albania for the international break, so is available and should be fully fit after being a bit battered two weeks ago. Vlad Chiriches missed the Sampdoria match with an injury of his own, but looked mostly better during his spell with Romania during the break, playing all of two matches and looking stronger as he went on. He's now had a week off and should be ready to rock. Shockingly, neither of Jonathan De Guzman or Camilo Zuniga are available. Who'd have guessed that?
Goalkeepers: Pepe Reina, Rafael Cabral, Gabriel
Defenders: Christian Maggio, Elseid Hysaj, Henrique, Kalidou Koulibaly, Raul Albiol, Vlad Chiriches, Faouzi Ghoulam, Ivan Strinic
Midfielders: Jorginho, Mirko Valdifiori, David Lopez, Jacopo Dezi, Allan, Marek Hamsik, Omar El Kaddouri
Forwards: Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens, Manolo Gabbiadini, Jose Callejon, Gonzalo Higuain
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
Empoli: Skorupski; Zambelli, Martinelli, Tonelli, Rui; Croce, Diousse, Zielinski; Saponara; Maccarone, Pucciarelli
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Valdifiori, Hamsik; Insigne; Callejon, Higuain
At A Glance
Empoli: 18th; 0 W 0 D 2 L; League Form: LL
Napoli: 14th; 0 W 1 D 1 L; League Form: DL
TV: beIN Sports (U.S. & Canada), Sky Calcio 1, Sky Sport 1 HD Italia, Premium Calcio (Italy), BT Sport Extra (U.K.), RAI International
Online: Fubo TV, beIN Sports Connect (U.S. & Canada), Sky Go Italia (Italy)
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