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 MarekHamsik 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 SinisaMihajlovic 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.