Napoli go into Sunday’s match with Fiorentina looking for a much needed win that, in the eyes of many, would see a faltering season get back on track.
Of course, it’s not a rhetoric I buy into, the notion of a faltering season after a single league loss and a Champions League defeat in a match that, ultimately, would have meant nothing had the score line been reversed.
Stefano Pioli’s side come into the match off the back of a decent run which has seen them lose just twice in their last eight matches, securing two draws and four wins in the process.
Fiorentina dispatched Sassuolo 3-0 at the Artemio Franchi in round 15 with both Chiesa and Simeone on the scoresheet and secured a 1-1 draw at the Stadio Olimpico against a high flying Lazio side in round 14; a Babacar penalty deep in stoppage time.
For ourselves, there may be an instant return to the top of Serie A as the Derby d’Italia takes place on Saturday evening. Anything other than a win for Inter would present us with an opportunity to regain top spot with 3 points against the Viola which, in light of recent headlines, would make some look rather foolish after writing our season off.
Form is very much on our side, we haven’t lost 3 matches back to back since October 2016.
Yes, you read that right, October 2016 when defeats to Atalanta away (1-0) and Roma & Besiktas at home (1-3 and 2-3 respectively) seen Napoli plunged into crisis in what was a dark spell as we adjusted to the loss of Arek Milik.
Lorenzo Insigne remains a doubt for the match as he continues to nurse a groin strain, but don’t be surprised if Naples hometown hero shrugs off the knock to make a comeback.
Jorginho was rested against Feyenoord and will slot into his usual starting berth, most likely alongside Marek Hamsik and Allan, who did both play in Rotterdam. And while many chastise Sarri for his lack of rotation, I have a feeling that given what’s at stake this weekend we may see see as close to the “Classic XI” as possible.
In the aftermath of Rotterdam, Maurizio Sarri stated that he felt Napoli had lost something in their offensive play, something which we hope can be remedied by the arrival of Roberto Inglese in January and the return to fitness of Arek Milik.
When the dust settles on round 16 of what has already been a superb Serie A season, Napoli could quite easily find themselves top of the pile once more, which would be remarkable when taken in the context of what many have written about the club since the defeat to Juventus.
We know we have flaws, we know we have a lack of depth, and we know we lack experience when it comes to winning Championships but the way this football club, our team and our manager have been written off by some in recent weeks is nothing short of embarrassing.
Should Napoli return to the summit of Serie A come Sunday evening, we won’t be shouting from the rooftops about it or proclaiming ourselves title favourites.
We’ll just sit back and enjoy it, safe in the knowledge that the number one season objective remains within our own hands.
We ran out 4-1 winners in Serie A back on May 20th, with goals from Kalidou Koulibaly and Lorenzo Insigne securing a 2-0 half time scoreline before a quick-fire Dries Mertens double either side of a Kalinic strike midway through the second half added further gloss to the result.
Fiorentina also visited the San Paolo on Coppa Italia duty in January and were once again defeated as a sole José Callejon goal on 71 minutes was enough to send the Partenopei through to the next round.
If Lorenzo Insigne wins his fitness race then expect him to start in a strong Napoli line up as Maurizio Sarri looks to capitalise on any slip up by Inter in the Derby d’Italia.
4-3-3: Reina; Rui, Albiol, Koulibaly, Hysaj; Allan, Jorginho, Hamsik; Insigne, Mertens, Callejon.
How to watch.
UK supporters: BT Sport 1 from 2pm.
US supporters: BeIN Sports from 9am
By James McGhie Follow @jrmcghie