Ahead of the Serie A kick-off, Football Italia looks at the crucial fixtures for each of the top sides, and today it’s the turn of Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli.
The Partenopei have won praise from all quarters for their stylish football over the past two seasons, but their beautiful play hasn’t been rewarded with trophies.
The squad resolved to stay together for a serious assault on the Scudetto this season, and these five games will be crucial if they’re to finally win Serie A again.
Atalanta-Napoli [Week 2]
Gian Piero Gasperini’s side were something of a bogey team for Napoli last season, beating them both in Bergamo and at the San Paolo.
The two sides renew acquaintances in Week 2, and if the Partenopei can take three points in Bergamo it’ll be cause for optimism ahead in their quest for a first title since 1990.
Another defeat, however, could see them lose early ground in the Scudetto race, and last season a difficult October and November is ultimately what handed Juventus the title.
Roma-Napoli [Week 8]
Roma and Napoli have been the two sides running Juve closest over the past six years, and the meet for the first time in Week 8.
The Giallorossi have undergone numerous changes this summer, while Sarri’s squad is virtually the same as the one which won five in a row at the end of the previous campaign.
This game will give us a good indication of where each side stands, and the Partenopei will be hoping to lay down an early marker.
Napoli-Juventus [Week 15]
This has become a real grudge match in recent years, particularly following Gonzalo Higuain’s move to Turin last summer.
With the Vesuviani looking to dethrone the Old Lady this season, a win at the San Paolo will be essential, while defeat is unthinkable.
Last season saw a 1-1 draw in Serie A and a 3-2 win in the Coppa Italia semi-final second leg, which wasn’t enough to progress after defeat in Turin.
Napoli-Lazio [Week 24]
Napoli will be aiming to reach at least the Last 16 stage in the Champions League, but competing on two fronts can bring its issues.
The first legs of the Last 16 ties will be played on February 13 and 14, with Napoli visiting Lazio the weekend before.
Given that the Aquile are likely to be competing for a Champions League place, any rotation on a trip to the Olimpico could see the Partenopei drop vital points.
Fiorentina-Napoli [Week 35]
Week 35 brings a trip to Florence, just one week after Sarri and his men face Juventus in Turin.
While the previous match could have a greater bearing on the Scudetto race, if Napoli are in a position to win the Scudetto they can’t afford to slip in the run-in.
Their final three fixtures are Torino and Crotone at home and Sampdoria away, so a visit to the Franchi may be the final stumbling block.