Napoli are teetering on the edge of a crisis. Yes, they won at the weekend, but it wasn’t a good performance and they took yet another hit to their depth chart with Manolo Gabbiadini picking up a suspension. Now they have to face Empoli and prepare for Juventus while playing extremely shorthanded, and it might not be pretty.
With Gabbiadini suspended and Arek Milik hurt, Napoli have been forced to turn to desperate measures to maintain the 4-3-3 shape that Maurizio Sarri has preferred for his team. Dries Mertens looks set to start as a false nine, a tactic that might work OK on paper, but it’s a role he’s struggled in when he’s actually played in it in the past, including this past weekend.
It might work OK if Marek Hamsik was running up high to support him more directly — Napoli’s captain has a lot of experience successfully supporting false nines with Slovakia’s national team — but he’s been rotated out in favor of Piotr Zielinski, who has much less experience in such a role. Hopefully Jose Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne can get inside freely enough to give Mertens the support he needs, or Napoli’s attack will struggle.
Meanwhile, Christian Maggio and Vlad Chiriches are rotating in on defense. Yeah, this is such a trap game.
Napoli: Reina; Maggio, Chiriches, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Jorginho, Zielinski; Callejon, Mertens, Insigne
Empoli: Skorupski; Veseli, Bellusci, Costa, Dimarco; Krunic, Diousse, Buchel; Saponara; Pucciarelli, Mchedlidze
When: Wednesday, 8:45 p.m. CET, 2:45 p.m. ET
Where: Stadio San Paolo, Naples, Italy
TV: Sky Calcio 3, Premium Calcio 2 (Italy)
Online: beIN Sports Connect (U.S.), Sky Go Italia (Italy)
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