Finally. FINALLY. The Serie A season is here at long last. The pre-season friendlies are a thing of the past, and the games will count again. It’s been too long, but finally we can get our Napoli fix again, as they start the season on the road against Pescara.
It’s definitely something of a boon for Napoli to be facing one of the newly-promoted teams first, though Pescara won’t be much of a pushover. They came up with a fairly solid squad that they were able to improve in the summer mercato, utilizing the transfer market to a greater efficiency than we usually see from teams just coming up to Serie A. Pescara mean business, and they aren’t going to go back down to Serie B without a fight.
Manager Massimo Oddo may be young at 40 years old, but be did a masterful job with his squad last season, and while Pescara are quite young by Serie A standards, they have a number of intriguing talents who will bear close scrutiny. From Inter Milan loanee striker Rey Manaj to new playmaking signing Ahmad Benali to budding star Bryan Cristante to Cristiano Biraghi, there’s a lot of intriguing talents who are going to play a big role for Pescara. There’s a risk that enough of them “bust” that Pescara will be doomed to relegation, but if things click for them, they’re going to be surprisingly tough to play.
Of course Napoli are, well, Napoli. They finished second in the league a year ago and, despite the loss of Gonzalo Higuain, might be a better team now. They’re deeper in several key positions and playing with Manolo Gabbiadini or Arkadiusz Milik up top can give them a more coherent, team-based performance instead of relying on “lump it to Higuain and hope he scores again.” That’s what Napoli were trying to build to last season before Higuain got so ridiculously hot — and the style some of their best performances came from — so seeing how this plays out in the early weeks will bear close, close scrutiny.
There are a few injury concerns for Napoli — new signings Lorenzo Tonelli and Emanuele Giaccherini are both sidelined, and Pepe Reina isn’t at full health either. A handful of other expected starters aren’t quite at full match fitness yet either, but we should still expect to see a fairly “ideal” starting eleven for Napoli in this match. Given the challenge of facing AC Milan in a week’s time, we’ll definitely want to see the boys in blue — well, probably black for this match — come out strong.
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
Napoli: Reina; Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly, Ghoulam; Allan, Jorginho, Hamsik; Callejon, Gabbiadini, Insigne
Pescara: Gonzo; Zampano, Zuparic, Gyomber, Biraghi; Memushaj, Cristante, Verre; Benali, Caprari; Manaj
When: Sunday, August 21, 8:45 p.m. CET, 2:45 p.m. ET
Where: Stadio Bentegodi, Verona, Italy
TV: Sky Sport 1 HD, Sky Calcio 1, PremiumSport HD (Italy), BT Sport 1 (U.K.), RAI International
Online: beIN Sports Connect (U.S.), Sky Go Italia (Italy), BT Sport Live (U.K.)
Other live viewing options can be found here, and as always, we'll have a match thread live here for discussion of the game at hand. You can also follow along with us live on Twitter, and we'll have updates of the most important events on our Facebook page, which you should definitely like.