This is something that Napoli fans were hoping wouldn’t happen at this point in the season, but they’re about to host Lazio in a match that could prove to be an important turning point in the season. With Lazio one place and one point ahead of Napoli in the table, the partenopei need a win in a bad way — not just to pass Lazio, but to get their season back on the right track.
Everything has come unhinged for Napoli since Arek Milik’s knee shredded while he was playing for Poland, with their once-potent attack falling apart and the rest of the squad having to deal with a lot of pressure they weren’t facing before because of it. Their standing in both the Champions League and Serie A has fallen off badly, and that’s allowed hot streaks from several teams to pass them in the table.
One of those teams is Lazio, who haven’t lost since late September, though when you look at who they’ve played that streak is perhaps a little deceptive. The only team in the top half of the table that Lazio have beaten is Atalanta, and that was all the way back in the first match of the season before Atalanta got hot. Otherwise, they’ve gotten beaten by Juventus and Milan, drew with Torino, Bologna, and Chievo, and beat up on teams in the lower stretches of the table. They’re getting the job done, obviously, but it’s not exactly impressive given how big a hit their quality takes against better teams.
So this could be a good opportunity to catch Lazio swaggering and over-confident. A focused performance from Napoli could be enough to catch Lazio sleeping, and a win in this match, against a team that’s become a nasty rival in recent years, would be immeasurably huge for Napoli right now.
Lineup predictions sure to be wrong
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Maksimovic, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Zielinski, Diawara, Hamsik; Callejon, Gabbiadini, Mertens
Lazio: Marchetti; Basta, Wallace, Radu; Felipe, Parolo, Biglia, Milinkovic, Lulic; Keita, Immobile
TV: beIN Sports en Español (U.S.), Sky Sport 1 HD Italia, Sky Supercalcio, Sky Calcio 1 (Italy), BT Sport 3 (U.K.), RAI International
Online: beIN Sports Connect (U.S.), Sky Go Italia (Italy), BT Sport Live Streaming (U.K.)
Match Date/Time: Saturday, 8:45 p.m. CET, 3:45 p.m. ET
Venue: Stadio San Paolo, Naples, Italy
Three big things to know
- Keep a close eye on not just the shape Napoli are playing in, but how they play tactically. While it’s unlikely that Maurizio Sarri takes Aurelio De Laurentiis’ “recommendations” too seriously, it definitely is high time to make some adjustments, and this match is one that it seems like they’ll definitely have to be heads up and be willing to change up what they’re doing in order to get the best possible results.
- It’s looking a lot like Amadou Diawara is putting in a serious challenge for Jorginho’s starting spot in midfield, especially with it seeming that he’s lined up for the start in this match. Especially after how much better Diawara looked coming off the bench replacing Jorginho, and how good he was against Juventus, the 19 year old Guinean midfielder might legitimately be the better option than the out-of-form Jorginho — and if he can continue playing as well as he has lately, he may never give Jorginho the chance to get back in form.
- This plays into the potential tactical changes mentioned above, but which two of Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne, and Manolo Gabbiadini are started by Sarri could be very telling for the near future of the team. Mertens is healthy again after shaking off the knock he suffered against Juventus, so for the first time in several weeks Sarri has all three players fit and available to choose from. If Gabbiadini starts this match on the bench, it may be a sign that Sarri is starting to give up on the young striker.
As a programming note, I won’t be around to provide match coverage during the day as normal as I’ll be at a friend’s wedding. I will, however, watch the match and have a recap up as soon as possible, though it will likely be sometime on Sunday given the travel involved. Have fun, play nice, and Forza Napoli.