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Serie A Preview: Inter vs Napoli

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The Nerazzurri look to extend their five-match unbeaten streak when they welcome back a familiar face to the Meazza…

Marco Luzzani

Rafa Benitez returns to his old stomping ground for the first time since he was unceremoniously relieved of his duties just two days before Christmas in 2010.

Benitez has never passed up an opportunity to hit out at Inter following his ill-fated six-month tenure at San Siro and holds a grudge to this day over his perceived lack of support from the Beneamata's top brass.

The Spanish waiter manager still takes pot shots at his former club, but Nerazzurri Nation has moved on and will remember Rafa as just another coach who couldn't last a full season on the Inter hot seat.

That's probably a little harsh considering his record at Valencia and Liverpool, but that's how he's viewed in Milan, which probably infuriates him. 

Inter has moved on, but for Benitez this is personal. Very personal.

Benitez can take solace in the fact that Inter has struggled since his departure and will miss out on the Champions League once again.  

Napoli come into the encounter 12 points ahead of the Nerazzurri and is virtually assured of a place in Europe's most elite club competition next season, barring a major collapse down the stretch. 

This game should mean more to Inter after a quick peek at the table, but it's safe to say that Rafa would love nothing more than to complete the season sweep over Walter Mazzarri's men following Napoli's 4-2 triumph on Dec. 15.

Three points would be huge for Inter, which has only lost only once in its last 12 games, while winning its last two encounters by a combined score of 6-0.

All signs are pointing towards a vital victory, but every time the Nerazzurri seem poised to take a big step forward, they fall flat on their face. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me…

THE VITALS

Date: Saturday, April 26

Time: 2:45 pm, EST

Venue: Giuseppe Meazza

BATTLE DOSSIER

Inter Probable Formation: 3-5-2: Handanovic; Campagnaro, Ranocchia, Andreolli; D'Ambrosio, Hernanes, Cambiasso Kovacic, Nagatomo; Palacio, Icardi

Napoli Probable Formation: 4-2-3-1: Reina; Henrique, Albiol, Britos, Ghoulam; Inler, Jorginho; Callejon, Mertens, Insigne; Higuain

Unavailable For Duty: Inter is facing a mini-crisis in defense as Walter Samuel and Rolando are suspended after picking up yellow cards versus Parma while Juan Jesus is out for the season with a torn MCL. Jonathan will hopefully sit out again with a muscle injury.

Operation Boom Shaka Laka Yo Here Comes The Chief Rocka: The objective is to halt the enemy's advance from the south and inflict maximum punishment on the traitor, who almost internally destroyed our army from the inside out four years ago.

Enemy Of The State: Don't let Gonzalo Higuain fool you, he is a dangerous man. He can speak three languages, probably four, and has experience as an operative in Argentina, Spain and Italy. He's unforgiving in the heat of battle and the Inter defense must be aware of his location on the field at all times.

Fear Factor: 8: Napoli is as scary as a bitter, rotund man on Wife Swap, who is enjoying a nice honeymoon spell with his new spouse, but is still hellbent on exacting a measure of revenge on his former lover.

Medal Of Honor: Rodrigo Palacio is one of the reasons why the club is primed to secure a Europa League spot. The Argentine has 15 Serie A goals this season and will likely need to add to his tally if the Nerazzurri are to come away with all three points.

Likely Outcome: I predicted Inter to draw its last two matches and it emerged victorious in both encounters so let's not change anything up. I'm going with the draw here again. Yep, a draw. Sounds about right. A draw all the way.