Last year at this time, we were building pillow forts to try to hide from the terror of facing a perfect Roma side. This season comes a chance to break through those soft furnishings, putting aside the horror of the last couple months with an emphatic victory.
And should that win involve the head of Walter Mazzarri being presented to Erick Thohir on a garnished platter, well, so be it.
Inter are floundering
Mazzarri left Napoli 17 months ago, after he'd guided the side to second place and set Edinson Cavani on a path to PSG (probably. I don't know. Seems likely). Inter, on the other hand, had finished 9th under the hand of Andrea Stramaccioni. They were in a bit of a muddle, but Inter are a "big" club and Mazzarri had a reputation to enhance.
Now that reputation is looking a bit tarnished. Sure, the failings of Inter aren't all down to Mazzarri, and he'll surely find another job quite quickly. But his flaws are becoming more and more apparent: his inability to trust youth and his stubbornness when it comes to tactics aren't helping made this nerazzurri side any better.
So once again, Inter filled their ranks not with talented young players but with aging veterans looking for a second chance. And once again, they struggle. Sure, Mauro Icardi and Mateo Kovacic are getting time and looking good, but the rest of the side looks sluggish and rusty.
A month ago, everyone was set to declare Inter a success once more, even talking of their title hopes. Title hopes! After beating Sassuolo 7-0! They did it last year as well, and it made little difference. Sure enough, they've gone on to beat Atalanta, draw with Palermo and get thumped 4-1 by Cagliari.
And last week, Inter fell 3-0 to a Fiorentina side that had scored just two goals in the five games previously. They're in over their heads, but it's Mazzarri's that is on the chopping block. The problem here is, of course, that struggling opposition often seems to love tearing Napoli apart.
CONSTANT VIGILANCE BOYS.
Napoli need to keep their momentum
Napoli may have barely edged wins in their last two Serie A matches, but they're three in a row unbeaten -- and three wins in a row, if we're counting Europa League. Plus, Lorenzo Insigne finally scored last time out, so there's reason to be hopeful that the partenopei will continue on in the same vein.
Plus, there's reason to (finally) be hopeful about Marek Hamšík. We've long been staunch defenders of Marekiaro around these parts, aware that even when he's not able to grab the goals, he's still filling an essential role for Napoli, guiding the game and creating chances. Hamšík has also often gotten stick for Slovakia, with many of their fans believing he doesn't give a toss about that repre. But Marek was outstanding for his country over the international break, orchestrating the side in their victory over Spain and scoring two in the win against Belarus. Perhaps he can now find the net for Napoli?
If Hamšík is back to his best in the middle, Insigne is confident on the left and José Callejón continues to be a menace down the right, Inter's rather shaky defense will likely be unable to cope. What would help, though, would be Gonzalo Higuaín rediscovering his touch. He, too, is starting to get flustered, having yet to score a goal in Serie A this season. He too scored during the international break, but will a brace against Hong Kong really be enough to set him back on the right path?
Projected Lineups Sure To Be Wrong
Inter Milan: Samir Handanović; Juan Jesus, Nemanja Vidić, Andrea Ranocchia; Dodô, Hernanes, Gary Medel, Yann M'Vila, Yuto Nagatomo; Mauro Icardi, Rodrigo Palacio
Does Hernanes ever really play on the left? I'm uncertain, but considering Kovacic, Fredy Guarín, Gary Medel and Yuto Nagatomo are all rumored to have knocks, any midfield arrangement leaves me scratching my head.
Napoli: Rafael; Juan Zúñiga, Kalidou Koulibaly, Raúl Albiol, Christian Maggio; David López, Gokhan Inler; Lorenzo Insigne, Marek Hamšík, José Callejón; Gonzalo Higuaín
At a glance
Inter: 10th; W2 D2 L2; League Form: LLWDW
Napoli: 7th; W3 D1 L2; League Form: WWDLL
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