Tuesday April 17 2012
Partenopei not shipwrecked yet

'Zadok the Priest' may have lulled them into a trance but Napoli's hopes of a return to the Champions League aren't beyond salvage, says Scott Fleming

Napoli's Partenopei nickname apparently stems from Greek mythology, from the tale of Partenope, a siren that attempted to lure Odysseus to his death on the rocks of Capri, the island near Naples.

It isn't clear whether Partenope knew the tune to 'Zadok the Priest', but the question being asked in Naples now is whether the Champions League anthem has lured the city's football club into a trance and left their Serie A campaign dashed upon the rocks.

Opinions differ, even within the club. Coach Walter Mazzarri's response to every negative result has been more or less the same, the words ‘fatigue’ and ‘Champions League’ never far from his lips. “We are paying the price of fatigue from a long season,” he said after last Wednesday's 3-1 loss at home to Atalanta, an alarming defeat in which the visitors – who had drawn their previous three away games 0-0 – threatened to win by a even more convincing scoreline.

However President Aurelio Di Laurentiis had a different message to convey to the players when he arrived at the Castelvolturno training ground the following day. “There are guys who have been with me for three or four years and I wanted to look them in the eyes,” revealed the movie mogul and part time scooter enthusiast. ”I told them that we cannot always appeal to Champions League fatigue.”

The man known as 'De La' had a point. Back in November and December, when Napoli were navigating their way past Manchester City in the Group of Death, Champions League exertions may have been a valid excuse for somewhat wonky domestic results, but now? The Azzurri have played only two European ties in 2012, and in between those home and away legs against Chelsea they dispatched Parma 2-1 and destroyed Cagliari 6-3, part of a run of five straight Serie A victories. It is since their ejection from the Champions League Last 16, and not before it, that Napoli's form and their chances of participating in the tournament again next season have truly degenerated.

Perhaps some perspective is needed. The club was playing in the lower leagues and on the verge of extinction less than a decade ago - maybe progressing to the cusp of the Champions League quarter-finals and winning a legion of new admirers along the way is worth a lacklustre League campaign. Next month they have the chance to win their first honour of note since 1991 when they contest the Coppa Italia Final with Juventus.

But this is Italy, what happened last month or last year doesn't matter, only the last result. “I did not see the usual San Paolo,” said captain Paolo Cannavaro after the Atalanta game. “The public did a good job to whistle us at the end, that was right, but during the match I expected a greater charge. We do not feel trust outside, I hear the hasty judgements, of finished cycles.”

Contributing to this unease is the uncertainty regarding Mazzarri. The first thing asked of any opposition tactician after his team plays Napoli these days is whether he'll be Coaching them next season. Vincenzo Montella, Giuseppe Sannino and Stefano Colantuono have all been popped the question in recent weeks. Mazzarri's history of abrupt departures - he walked out on home town club Livorno after winning them promotion from Serie B and Reggina after saving them relegation despite an 11-point Calciopoli penalty – and rumours linking him with the Inter job, have added fuel to the talk of 'finished cycles' that Cannavaro referenced.

But encouragement can be found in a closer look at De Laurentiis's storming of Castelvolturno, which appears to have been an exercise in arms round shoulders rather than boots up behinds. “I said 'Guys smile, you're players of Napoli and here its sunny.' It was a relaxing meeting. I believe that with the great spirit Mazzarri has the group is in good hands.”

Even in Serie A all is not lost. This weekend, whilst Lazio, Udinese and Co. are engaged in much trickier fixtures, the Vesuviani are at home to all but relegated Novara, a chance to slingshot themselves back into the reckoning for third place. The siren's song has faded, now all Mazzarri has to do is steer them away from the rocks.

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
@Anonymous. gone are the days of de boer, winter and blind. mathijsen has played over 70 times for netherlands. arguably the best team he has played for are hamburg. what has he won? are you trying to tell us that joris mathijsen is a better ball playing defender than the likes of chiellini? when fit, even bonera is a better centre back that joris. so please go ahead and tell me the name of one of your great ball playing centre backs who currently plays in the eridivisie. I'm puzzled.
on the 20th April, 2012 at 12:14am
@Anonymous. you like how napoli play because most of the games in your league contain at least 10 goals. to say that you have produced better ball playing defenders than italy is laughable. there is a better defender in holland than nesta, even at his age? you have better defenders than chiellini at this moment? the last time netherlands had a decent centre back was when stam was playing. Heitinga, Boularouz, bruma, vlaar, mathijsen. these are all mediocre at best.
on the 20th April, 2012 at 12:04am
Rosario the dutch league has some very good defensive player. Dutch defenders are better in playing football then the italian ones they only can defend and not build up they are static(except great ones like baresi,cannavaro, maldini etc.)Napoli lack depth in their squad. This is alson because they do not pay they wages like juve,milan,inter etc.For example ibrahimovic earns as much as the starting eleven from Napoli. SO Napoli is doing a wonderfull job.And here in Holland we like how they play
on the 19th April, 2012 at 7:02pm
@Alex: Maybe but I prefer seeing Inter or Roma or Napoli in the Champions league though than Lazio and Udinese
on the 19th April, 2012 at 6:28am
i can see so many people jealous of Napoli's achievement this term...
i consider this as a source of pride for my club..
( wich a few years down d line was on brink of being closed down )
forza Napoli sempre per vita.
on the 18th April, 2012 at 12:39pm
@Inter Fan... How Lazio are 3rd right now is unreal? Is it really?? Remind me how Inter are doing with there dinosaur old has beens...Next season Inter will be where they are now oh and Pazini will join Lazio..You will say sure take him we can buy another old man Luca Toni?
on the 18th April, 2012 at 8:44am
@The Milanello Don: what a joke.. inter and roma are not better than napoli, udinese and lazio this season. Based on what reason you claim that they're more consistent? Whoever finish 3rd deserves the last remaining place to UCL next season.. whether it's napoli, udinese or lazio, it doesn't matter. They have been fighting hard all this season!
on the 18th April, 2012 at 8:22am
Inter or Roma need to qualify for the Champions League because teams like Napoli, Udinese and Lazio are not consistent teams think about Lazio lost 3-1 to Atletico Madrid at home and Napoli threw away a 3-1 lead to Chelsea and Udinese didn't do much in Europe either.

1 Ac Milan
2 Juventus
3 Inter
4 Roma
5 Lazio
6 Udinese
7 Napoli
on the 18th April, 2012 at 6:57am
Rosario? Inter or Roma? Inter won less games than Napoli in the CL and Roma got knocked out of the qualifying rounds of the Europa...and Napoli despite their CL campaign are still level with them ont he league. Will they lose at least two of their best players in the summer? Maybe..but at least the profit on them combined will be 50-60 million in Napoli's bank account...but I guess your happy with the likes of Cavani/Lavezzi playing in La Liga or EPL.
on the 18th April, 2012 at 12:04am
Rosario....very poorly said! But thanks for taking the precious time to comment about Napoli! Forza Napoli forever and Forza dela the best president in Italy!
on the 17th April, 2012 at 9:35pm
@NapoliFansClubLondon. last week you pointed to your apparently great history, yet now your excuse for your shambolic season is that you aren't used to competing in these competitions? what happened? then again I don't blame you. even to be competing in europe must be of immense pride for a 'club' that managed to get itself into adminstration and start again with a new name. Ok I do not like Napoli. but for you to call napoli a great club is arguably the biggest joke I have heard in years.
on the 17th April, 2012 at 9:33pm
For the sake of italian fotball roma or inter must qualify for the champions league. Napoli simply don't deserve it, as Rosario pointed out. Italian clubs must be consistent in the champions league, and teams like lazio,udinese,napoli, must treat the europe league as the champions league. Getting 4 champions league spots should be priority for all the italian clubs entering the competition.
on the 17th April, 2012 at 9:03pm
@Arthur. with you being dutch, you are used to watching teams in the eridivisie having the same level of tactical nouse as the primavera in italy. whilst your country has a great record of producing great attacking players, the quality of your league is shocking from a defensive aspect. I don't know what Napoli are you talking about but I suggest you go and look at their form since the turn of the year. they don't have strength in depth? is that the other clubs' fault?
on the 17th April, 2012 at 8:47pm
Pllayers are not used to play for a such important competition. thats was the problem. But the league is not over yet ps Rosario and anonymous.. 
on the 17th April, 2012 at 8:08pm
I do not know why some italian people are so negative about Napoli. I have been watching this club for a while and i am from holland they play some of the best sooccer in Italy i think! They have some talented players with top quality and they have truly build their team and do not just buy like milan and juve,roma. Second thing they do not have the squad depth milan have just look at how many platers mazzari has used maybe 15??Milan can field 2 teams that can play in the upper half of serie A.
on the 17th April, 2012 at 4:28pm
Napoli was such an over rated team this year. The i'm tired excuse is getting old. Next year if you make champions league just give up the spot so you can compete in the league next year.
on the 17th April, 2012 at 4:22pm
Well.. I do like how Napoli play.. especially when they attack.. It's beautiful to see their three tenors..
but the main problem is their defenders.. They need a world class defender.. I can remember how larrivey can score a hattrick all with his head easily without the defender gave him a much pressure.. Also playing counter attack won't work again smaller clubs.
If they had world class defender maybe now they will progress to the semi finals.. nothing special from chelsea..
on the 17th April, 2012 at 4:19pm
Sadly there is only one additional place up for grabs as we lost our 4th Champions league place to the Germans....Yes i would prefer Inter or Roma over Napoli to get 3rd but any of them would be better than Lazio or Udinese! How Lazio are 3rd right now is unreal, most boring football I have ever watched and even Mauri gets and Italian call up. Imagine them in the champions! Out in the quals! Depressing times for the Azzurri. Forza Inter!
on the 17th April, 2012 at 3:28pm
Cavani to Juve? Lavezzi to Man City? Napoli can not blame tiredness, they have been using that as a cover up......they have gone as far as they can with that team 3rd last year was an over achivment... They have lost hunger this is most likly because they have been getting to much praise and that has ment taking thier eye off the ball
on the 17th April, 2012 at 3:03pm
Well said Rosario...
on the 17th April, 2012 at 3:02pm
They really should have signed some decent defenders and a bit more back-up, they knew what they were in for this season.
on the 17th April, 2012 at 2:43pm
Have Napoli done enough over the season in Serie A to grant champions league qualification? NO! Do they have the tactical intelligence to represent Serie A in Europe? NO. Will they lose at least two of their best players in the summer? YES! I sincerely hope they don't qualify. Their president, their coach and their atrocious defence do not deserve to represent italian football in europe. given the need for coifficent points, it is more important that Inter and Roma get the additional two spots.
on the 17th April, 2012 at 2:31pm

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