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Serie A Preview: Inter vs. Napoli

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The Nerazzurri look to turn their fortunes around with a win over Rafa Benitez's men…

Maurizio Lagana

Inter hopes to snap a two-game losing skid when it welcomes Napoli to the Meazza in a clash that could well decide Walter Mazzarri's future with the club.

The 53-year-old is under immense pressure following back-to-back losses to Cagliari and Fiorentina by a combined score of 7-1 and patience is wearing thin amongst Nerazzurri Nation.

The beleaguered manager could be patrolling the San Siro sidelines for the final time if reports emanating from Italy are to be believed.

Another loss could see owner Erick Thohir pull the plug on the Mazzarri experiment  with Walter Zenga reportedly the first in line to assume the reins.

Like it or not, the manager often shoulders the blame for the squad's deficiencies in modern football and is always an easy scapegoat when the team is not performing up to par.

Thohir did not hire Mazzarri and recently gave him the dreaded vote of confidence, so it's not that hard to figure out what's going to happen if you read between the lines.

However, a coaching change just two months into the season is hardly ideal and will reinforce existing stereotypes about 'Pazza' Inter.

The team needs stability not more chaos and it remains to be seen whether a new manager can bring the desired results.

Against this backdrop there is a game to be played and the players can do a great deal to quell the criticism directed at Mazzarri and save his job with a stellar showing on Sunday.

But that's a big if as the Beneamata have only beaten Napoli once in the last seven meetings between the clubs.

To make matter worse, Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis has reportedly offered the players a bonus to beat Inter on Sunday.

You can't help but think that the football gods will share a chuckle if Napoli is indeed the team to inflict the final, fatal blow on Mazzarri.

THE VITALS

Date: Sunday, October 19

Venue: Giuseppe Meazza

Time: 2:45 EST

BATTLE DOSSIER

Inter Probable Lineup: 3-5-2: Handanovic; Ranocchia, Vidic, Juan Jesus; Nagatomo, Medel, Hernanes, Guarin, Dodo; Palacio, Icardi

Napoli Probable Lineup: 4-2-3-1: Rafael; Maggio, Albiol, Koulibaly, Zuniga; Gargano, David Lopez; Callejon, Hamsik, Insigne; Higuain

Unavailable For Duty: The list of walking wounded continues to grow as Mateo Kovacic faces a race to be fit in time for Sunday's festivities after picking up a groin strain while on international duty with Croatia. The news is worse for Danilo D'Ambrosio, who will be sidelined for up to six weeks with an MCL tear, while Dani Osvaldo is out with an adductor strain.  

Operation M For Mazzarri: The objective is to rescue our leader from an angry mob of disgruntled partisans who feel that his lack of tactical acumen is severely hurting the cause.  

Fear Factor: 9: Napoli is as scary as having your ex-spouse gleefully parade you blindfolded and half-naked around the town square before leading you to the gallows, tying the noose and pushing the horse cart from underneath you.

Enemy Of The State: Jose Callejon trails only Carlos Tevez in the early stages of the race for the Capocannoniere. The Spaniard has scored in each of his last three Serie A matches and his scorching form has attracted the interest of Arsenal. The 27-year-old would love nothing more than to extend his scoring streak and raise his growing profile in the process.

Medal Of Honor: I wouldn't mind if Rodrigo Palacio decided to score his first goal(s) of the campaign on Sunday. It's been a slow start to the club season for the striker, who probably isn't yet fully fit after Argentina's run to the World Cup final. But if there was a weekend to shake off the rust, this would be the one. 

Likely Outcome: Everyone affiliated with the club needs a win in this game, but whether that actually happens is anyone's guess. There will be many neutrals paying close attention to the final result for a variety of different reasons. Napoli seems to have Inter's number as of late so...