Sunday March 11 2018
Napoli must bounce back

After last weekend’s slip-up against Roma, Napoli cannot afford another false step against Inter at San Siro, writes Matthew Santangelo.

Napoli are at a crossroads this weekend, as after their club record 10-round winning run came to an end we’ll see if they are truly Scudetto material. A slip-up can happen, but it’s how a team reacts to it that speaks of their substance.

In a matter of hours, momentum had swung in favour of Juventus in the race for the Scudetto after Paulo Dybala’s 93rd-minute thriller lifted The Old Lady to a massively important victory over Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico.

By virtue of the Argentine’s demonstrations in Rome, the pressure was on for Napoli to keep their cushion at the top of the table by beating Roma. However, the Giallorossi delivered a blow to the Partenopei in the form of a 4-2 win, leaving the Bianconeri just one point from first with a game in their pocket.

As Juventus mounted a second half comeback over Tottenham midweek despite a less than stellar performance at Wembley, the reigning Italian champions proved once again their refusal to back down, forcing Napoli to enter must-win mode this weekend in Milan as they visit Inter.

Despite the Nerazzurri’s massive decline in form since the turn of the calendar year, Maurizio Sarri still has to be wary of a possible breakout performance here, especially with extended time off.

Back in October, Inter were in contrasting form compared to now and held Napoli to a stalemate at the San Paolo. Although the Milanese side’s capitulating suggests the star-studded attack of Lorenzo Insigne, Jose Callejon and Dries Mertens may be too much for Luciano Spalletti to game-plan, a big home match for Inter such as this could be just what they need to deliver an inspiring performance and regain positive form down the stretch.

Napoli must prove they aren’t shaken mentally after last weekend by turning up at San Siro. Sarri’s side was uncharacteristically poor all over the park except for Insigne, who was truly the only threat Roma had to worry about. Napoli’s defensive unit is among the best in terms of goals conceded, meaning the lapses at the back from the dependable Kalidou Koulibaly and Raul Albiol were surprising to say the least. Even the steady Jorginho gifted Roma the ball on their opening goal, which set the tone for a match they’d like to tuck away in their memory.

A repeat of last weekend’s showing is unlikely, considering how much talent Napoli have in their squad. Sarri is expected to have sorted these issues out during the week, and with Juventus creeping up behind them, there is reason to believe the bunch will be inspired to elevate their game in the wake of their worst defeat of the season.

Marek Hamsik, who was benched last weekend with flu symptoms, is almost a lock to start versus Inter, not only for his ability but more importantly the leadership he brings to the pitch. In a match of this significance, the Slovakian’s captaincy could be the key in Napoli returning to winning ways.

By the time Napoli and Inter kick off at San Siro, Juventus will have already played their home affair with Udinese. With so much at stake this season for the Azzurri, the only thing on their mind should be to take care of their own business, as it is all they can control.

The Neapolitans have no choice but to go for the victory head on and that will be the case for the rest of the season. It’s clear in such a tight race that every point matters.

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Have your say...
I can't believe Napoli didn't bid last summer 10M for Wojtek Szczesny, and today they bid 40M for A. Becker.
on the 16th March, 2018 at 1:05pm
Napoli is like a colourful bubble, it looks nice and it bursts when overheated or under pressure. The trembling Napoli collapsed even before they took the field against Roma. Juve's win was too heavy a blow for them. It's what you should expect from a coward team, they obviously lack the courage and mentality to go all the way. If you can not fight the fear of fatigue, when you lack the necessary belief to go on with heavy legs or minor knocks or bruises, then you don't deserve to win anything.
on the 13th March, 2018 at 12:41am
the ignorance all over this feed is just sad. Lega Nord really? what makes the North so privileged to bash the south and only say its only good at making pizza? The south is known for a lot more things than pizza buddy. pick up a history book, learn the culture as well.
on the 12th March, 2018 at 6:00pm
Football isn't a beauty contest; most often, the ugly team wins. Napoli has to learn how to play ugly, but before they can do this, they need players who, when the going gets ugly, know how to get uglier. All within game bounds, you understand. Napoli has no such players; they have prima donnas.
on the 12th March, 2018 at 2:38pm
All this talk about Napoli's beautiful football in the past (right now, it might be Juve fans bringing it up the most XD) has left me confused tbh. This week was crucial for us, and all others will take is that we won. That's the most important factor, sure, but how can anyone dismiss the content of those wins? Late winner against Lazio, 2 goals in >3 minutes against Tottenham were astonishing enough and that's not including the controlled performance against Udinese.

Juve is made of style.
on the 12th March, 2018 at 1:39pm
And I dont get the whole Sarri's genius/revolutionary tactics. He was lauded for Sarri-football but has no results to show for it. Lauded as the best Serie A side aesthetically during UCL games but yet failed to come out of their own is that winning/good football? Seems overrated. If his style was that great,it should also be winning for him and clearly it is not.It is beautiful but not winning. In contrast to Ancelloti's style which looked good on the eyes and defending when need be
on the 12th March, 2018 at 1:39pm
I really dont understand FI's optimism for Napoli to win the i said before....their own loser attitude has done them in. They lost the title since their last lost vs Roma even though they were still technically in it. A real winning mentality team would keep on winning and grinding out the results like Juve did when they were in second place for a large part of the season. Notice how Juve's mentality was when they were behind both vs Tottenham and in the league.
on the 12th March, 2018 at 1:33pm
Best of all is our lead with a game in hand. Too early to claim that Napoli are out yet. However, they seem content to exit competitions in favour of prioritising others, so maybe they've given up this year and preparing for the next. Harsh, but it's the impression people got after seemingly giving up on Europa and CI.

On a funnier note, Lazio seem to suffer the most from VAR. People wanted it as a tool to fight corruption, and so far it is by torturing a good team owned by Lotito.
on the 12th March, 2018 at 1:33pm
I don't think that I have seen a player as wasteful/powder puff with their finishing as Insigne. So frustrating! Napoli are a paradox. On the one hand they are - pound for pound (tiny squad, that cost relatively little to assemble) - one of the best sides in Europe. On the other, I see many flaws in Sarri & the team: no plan b, too rigid with subs/rotation, not learning from their errors in attack & defence, suspect temperament, predictable... I don't see them coming back now.
on the 12th March, 2018 at 12:16pm
Thanks for playing, Napoli. Now bugger off and go back to the only thing you're good at....complaining about Juve and making pizza......
on the 12th March, 2018 at 11:14am
Ya know its crazy when things go exactly like how you predicted it. I said by March Juve will have leaped frog Napoli,and they’ll never catch up again. Well folks it’s happened. Such a shame. Napoli had it in their hands,but gave up on every other trophy, so now give up on scudetto too. Come away with absolutely nothing. Funny thing is Inter started off like they were gonna win it all,but went into spiral to hell. Spaletti will be soon gone. Sari will quit at end of season.
on the 12th March, 2018 at 5:12am
Well, that is it ladies and gents. Scudetto heading to Turin again. Just like expected, by March every pretender will be in the rearview mirror.
on the 11th March, 2018 at 11:51pm
Thank you very very very much inter, sooo on that note,hahahahahhahah!!!!!!! Haaaaaaaaaaa!!!!! ITS ALL OVER byeeee napoli its 7th heaven yayyyyyyy. Celebrations aside, i really give credit to inter for taking points from them twice.
on the 11th March, 2018 at 11:02pm
Inter are garbage. Napoli will win this one easy. 3-1.
on the 11th March, 2018 at 5:42pm
as an Inter fan :) its puzzling, of course, we want to win but we don't want to hand the Scudetto to Juve :) and if we lose then we may miss the CL spot. what shall we do.....

on the 11th March, 2018 at 2:13pm
Its not a must win game. They need a draw and to stay close with Juventus. They should go all out against Juve rather than Inter. Still lots of games to play.
on the 11th March, 2018 at 12:19pm
Any side can have a poor game! But I hope they can come back n put in a good performance v Inter. The result is the most important thing now tho n if they can deliver then I can see them keeping up with Juve until the end. If they do lose n Juve win then it may be too much 4 them to take n they might crumble. I hope for the sake of Serie A that they do challenge Juve until the last game. Serie A needs 2 b competitive again! Then hopefully Milan, Inter, maybe Roma can all compete next year?
on the 11th March, 2018 at 11:36am
It will be very interesting to see how Napoli will react after last week.

I expect them to draw, and I'd be happy with that.
on the 11th March, 2018 at 6:35am
They have been at a crossroads since we beat them at the San Paolo. They needed to win that game to really put their foot on Juve's throat, but like usual they choked.
on the 11th March, 2018 at 4:23am

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