Napoli have a big, big match on Friday, one that could start to define their season for them. With Inter Milan coming to the San Paolo, there’s a lot of questions that will be answered — so we decided to add a few to the pile.
To that end, we reached out to fellow SB Nation blog Serpents of Madonnina — formerly known as the Offside Inter Milan — to have some questions answered. Site manager Baraka Nasri was kind enough to sit down and talk to us about the game, so thanks very kindly to him. Go check out his site, and follow Serpents of Madonnina on Twitter.
The Siren’s Song: Four points separate Napoli and Inter right now in the Serie A table. What has been your team's story so far this season?
Serpents of Madonnina: In typical Inter fashion, Inter's story has been one of craziness. Ill-advised summer preseason tours all over the world, parting with Mancini just before the start of the season, hiring Frank De Boer 12 days before Serie A began and expecting everything to go peachy; you know Inter being Inter. The Dutch tactician didn't last 3 months at the club, and a strange and tenuous search process ended with Stefano Pioli taking charge of the team.
It's still much too early to tell if Pioli will steady the ship or also fail to control this team but after a stressful 4-2 win over Fiorentina on Monday, the new manager will be looking to get his second win as as Inter manager as quickly (and calmly) as possible.
TSS: Arkadiusz Milik quickly proved himself to be an adequate replacement for Higuain with a high flying start for Napoli. How glad are you that he is out of this match?
SoM: Part of me feels like I'm going to jinx things and Gabbiadini will explode and score a hattrick against us for saying this, but I'm sooooooooooooooooo glad Milik isn't playing. Given his incredible start to the season he was probably (in my mind) the second-most feared player in Serie A. Not to say that Napoli doesn't have other good attackers (and given Inter's defense so far this campaign Gabbiadini might not even need to explode to score a hattrick on Friday) but Milik's goalscoring record and the way he seemed to perfectly slide into Sarri's team terrified me.
TSS: Napoli submitted some high-priced bids for Mauro Icardi which Inter rejected. Given his goalscoring record so far this season (joint-top goalscorer in Serie A) but also his attitude issues that once again reared their head (this time with the fans), do you wish Inter had accepted that bid?
SoM: That was a lot of money on the table and I'll admit I was seriously tempted to say Inter should accept the offer. At this moment I'm going to say I'm glad Inter said no but not exactly for the reasons most people would expect. Yes Icardi has been tearing it up so far this season but given the buys Inter made this summer and how things haven't exactly gelled with them so far (cough cough Gabigol), I'm not sure if I would've trusted Suning and co. to make the best decision to find Icardi's replacement.
TSS: Both Napoli and Inter are currently struggling a bit to keep up with the top 3 teams in Serie A. Which team do you think is better suited to catch up and potentially sneak into a Champions League spot for next season?
SoM: If I had to lay odds, it’d be 7.5/10 that it will be Napoli. They have a better foundation both on and off the pitch to get things settled and get back to business towards the top of the table. Inter certainly could do it as well but a minor miracle would be required to get this team acting competently on the field and in the boardroom.
TSS: Which player are you hoping will lead your team to victory?
SoM: If anybody is going to score it's going to be Icardi and yeah he's the captain and all, but oftentimes he doesn't do much during a game and just pops up with a goal or two. In terms of actually dragging the team across the finish line for this game, I'm gonna have to go with Antonio Candreva. He's been operating a little more central under Pioli and his form has been great, scoring twice his last two Serie A matches and looking re-energized in the process. I doubt he'll make it three in three but expect to see him all over the pitch giving defenders a hard time. Now if only he could make his crosses just a little more accurate...
TSS: Which player would you take from the other team if you could?
SoM: As touched upon earlier, Inter is struggling a bit defensively this season (shocking...). Kalidou Koulibaly would be a more than welcome addition to this squad providing more confidence and steel to what has sometime been a comical backline.
TSS: What is your prediction for the match?
SoM: I'm a bit more pessimistic about this game than I was for the Fiorentina match. I would gladly take a 2-2 draw.