Date: Sunday. March 8, 2015
Time: 3:45pm ET/ 20:45 CET
Venue: Stadio San Paolo; Naples, Italy
The last four times these two teams have faced each other, Napoli have managed either a win or a draw, and Inter have yet to win a match at the San Paolo since October 1997 - 18 years ago. All the numbers and the odds are against a win for the Nerazzurri as you can see, but as we have learned through our experience as Inter supporters, our team give their best in though matches (and often loses the easier ones).
These two sides have a few things in common: they are both still in the Europa Leage; they each lost their last Serie A match 1-0 conceding the goal early in the second half; they both need a win in order to secure a spot in a European competition next year.
It will be interesting to see how the two coaches manage their respective rosters, since they are both playing this Thursday in the Europa League and Napoli also played last Wednesday in the Coppa Italia. There will be changes in the usual starting XIs, and the managers will have to decide whether they will allow their best players to rest a bit, or whether they will keep playing their go-to-guys and hoping that fatigue doesn't set in.
Mancini said in today's press conference that he will rest some players with an eye toward the Wolfsburg match. One thing he assured is the presence of the Serie A top scorer Mauro Icardi, who is negotiating his contract renewal with the club in these days. Only two players are out for injuries: Nagatomo and Jonathan, while the recruit Felipe will be ready to play. Despite the bad spell Podolski is going through since he arrived (this corner kick is the perfect picture of what he is right now), the German will probably start the match since he can't play in the Europa League, giving Palacio an opportunity to rest before next week's clash against Wolfsburg. The midfield, in which Guarin and Medel are irreplaceable, will see the return of Hernanes, who has not lived up to expectations this year so far.
So without further ado, here are the 24 players Mancini is bringing with him for this fixture:
Roberto Mancini has expressed that he is not concerned by the loss against Fiorentina last week, and he said he was pleased by his players' performance. He also said he is sure that, even if that match halted the momentum Inter had built, it will not negatively effect their upcoming matches. One thing he pointed out is that the team is slow at the very beginning of matches, but he attributed that to a lack of certainty by the players, and said that only playing together will help solve that problem.
It will not be an easy match. Napoli is one of the most solid and well-coached teams in the league, Rafa Benitez - former Inter coach - has done a great job this year and his team is still running in all three competitions (even if they are13 points behind Juventus in Serie A). Napoli certainly have a busy schedule from now on, and the side's fatigue could see them drop points in some matches down the road. Will Inter Milan be there to take advantage? We certainly hope so. And this match will tell us a lot about that.
Projected Starting XI
Mesto - Albiol - Koulibaly - Strinic
David Lopez - Inler
Callejon - Hamsik - Gabbiadini
Podolski - Icardi
Hernanes - Medel - Guarin
Santon - Juan Jesus - Ranocchia - Campagnaro
Official Starting Lineups: