Match Details
Date and Time: 
Monday January 6 2014, 11.30am
League/Season: 
Week: 
18
Home Team Ref: 
Away Team Ref: 
Stadium: 
Stadio San Paolo
Match Played: 
Played
Teaser Text: 
Dries Mertens’ well-taken double saw Napoli break through a spirited Sampdoria performance on Monday afternoon.

Both Napoli and Sampdoria approach this game with clear, but contrasting New Year’s resolutions and some very different preparations.

Napoli have experienced a somewhat quiet and unremarkable festive season from a footballing perspective with all the players returning to training as expected and Rafa Benitez declaring, “I’m very pleased with the application and professionalism shown by the players. I hope that we’ll be able to meet our objectives in 2014.”

To do this, one of their New Year’s resolutions will almost certainly be to address the inconsistent nature of their results which is blighting their Serie A title aspirations.

This inconsistency was encapsulated in their last four games of 2013 which comprised of a superb 4-2 away win against Lazio only to be followed by a 3-3 home draw against an Udinese side who have really struggled on the road. The Partenopei’s spirits were then raised with a combative 4-2 win against Inter which again was followed by dropped points against Cagliari.

They will be feeling that for every step forward they make for hard fought three points, they take two steps back by dropping points and losing ground. One player who can create opportunities and help scrape victories is Marek Hamsik who is recovering from injury and may be in the matchday squad.

In Genova, the radical transition continues at Sampdoria. Ten players have been informed that they are surplus to requirements and shipped on to the January transfer list, whilst the rest of the squad were treated to champagne after training.

Coach Sinisa Mihajlovic has shown himself to be very direct and forthright having also previously stated to the media how, “players who don’t give 100 per cent focus better not return to the dressing room.” The style he adopts means it is likely players will either love him or loathe him and this, in turn, will determine whether Samp continue to climb up the table or rapidly descend into relegation.

Sampdoria managed to climb outside the relegation zone over Christmas and are unbeaten in five games. They will now be striving to secure their Serie A status as soon as possible in the New Year. As well as looking forward to the top, Napoli also need to watch their backs as they could quite easily lose Champions League qualification. The race is now on.

Keep an eye on: Eder (Sampdoria) – The Brazilian attacking midfielder is one of Sampdoria’s main attacking threats and has been on the scoresheet in his side’s last three games. He will look to exploit his pace against centre-halves Raul Albiol and Federico Fernandez, as well as looking to feed lone striker Nicola Pozzi. Eder will have an important role to ensure Pozzi doesn’t get isolated up front.

Form Guide: Napoli (L W D W D) Sampdoria (D D W W D)

Last Season: Napoli 0-0 Sampdoria

Stat Fact: Sampdoria have not scored a single goal at the San Paolo in their last five encounters.

Napoli (probable): Rafael; Maggio, Albiol, Fernandez, Reveillere; Inler, Dzemaili; Callejon, Pandev, Mertens, Higuain

Sampdoria (probable): Da Costa; De Silvestri, Mustafi, Gastaldello, Costa; Palombo, Renan; Gabbiadini, Krsticic, Eder; Pozzi

Review Details
Home Team Score: 
2
Away Team Score: 
0
Scorer Static Text: 
Mertens 54, 62 (N)
Match Review Text: 

Dries Mertens’ well-taken double saw Napoli break through a spirited Sampdoria performance on Monday afternoon.

Rafa Benitez’s men went into this lunchtime fixture looking to close the gap on second place Roma after their first defeat of the season to Juventus on Sunday evening. Dries Mertens was restored to a starting line-up missing the injured Pepe Reina, Marek Hamsik and Valon Behrami.

Sampdoria, meanwhile, were unbeaten since Sinisa Mihajlovic’s arrival as Coach and opted for an attacking line-up of Eder supported by three.

After opening exchanges in possession, the Vesuviani were the first to test their opponents, with Dries Mertens and Gonzalo Higuain both drawing smart, low stops from Junior da Costa.

Soon after, Nenad Krsticic thought he had put Samp 1-0 up after some neat interplay with teammates, only for play to be brought back correctly for an offside call.

Jose Callejon picked his way through the Samp markers to open up a chance midway through the half, but his effort was high to the right-hand corner.

At the other end, Krsticic then squandered a clear chance for Sampdoria, with Rafael proving equal to a tame effort.

Higuain then opened up a chance from the edge of the six-yard box, but his low effort flashed across the box and beyond the reach of Mertens at the far post.

Mertens had a slight appeal for a penalty turned down, after falling under the presence of Lorenzo De Silvestri’s shoulder barge in the box.

Eder saw a deflected effort saved by Rafael, who immediately launched a counter-attack that saw Napoli almost take the lead, only for Jose Callejon to pull Higuain’s cross over.

As the break approached, there were signs of Napoli’s growing frustration, as both Higuain and Mertens picked up yellow cards.

It was Mihajlovic’s side that began the second half with the opening half-chances from Eder and De Silvestri, but it was Napoli who took the lead, as Mertens volleyed first time a low effort to Da Costa’s left, from a drilled cross from Higuain.

Samp pushed back and Gabbiadini almost pulled things level within five minutes, when his excellent effort cannoned back off the crossbar. From a resulting corner, Samp then had a penalty appeal waved away.

Just after the hour mark, it was 2-0, as Mertens curled in his second of the afternoon from a 25-yard free-kick, which bounced just under Da Costa’s dive. Napoli grew in confidence and whilst Sampdoria continued to push forward, it was to little avail, with Lorenzo Insigne wasting a chance on a neat counter-attack to make it 3-0 on 70 minutes.

Substitute Gianluca Sansone almost pulled Samp back into it, when having just come on he cut inside and curled an effort beyond Rafael. However, the ball hit the far post, bounced along the line, hit the other post, to stay out and roll into the Napoli ‘keeper’s arms.

At the other end, Callejon could have made it 3-0, but his effort in the penalty box was drilled right at Da Costa, who parried it away. Ingisne late on saw a curling effort go just beyond the far post.

Home Team Player List (static): 
Rafael; Maggio, Fernandez, Albiol, Reveillere (Armero 49); Inler, Dzemaili; Mertens, Callejon (Radosevic 84), Insigne; Higuain (Zapata 77)
Away Team Player List (static): 
Da Costa; De Silvestri, Mustafi, Gastaldello, Regini (Costa 72); Obiang, Palombo; Gabbiadini, Krsticic (Pozzi 78), Soriano (Sansone 66); Eder
Referee Name: 
Banti