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Behind Enemy Lines: Napoli vs. Inter

In the buildup to the Napoli-Inter match, we asked some questions to one of the writers at SB Nation’s Napoli blog.

SSC Napoli v FC Dynamo Kyiv - UEFA Champions League Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

We have another big match coming up, this time Inter travels to take on Napoli. I wanted to get a feel for how Napoli fans feel about their team before this game, and in order to do so I reached out to Conor Dowley at The Siren’s Song and asked him some questions to hear his thoughts about their season thus far and what to expect in this match.

4 points separate Napoli and Inter right now in the Serie A table. What has been your team's story so far this season?

Napoli's story has been one of frustration. Things started so well, and then one player -- one player -- got hurt and everything went straight to hell. It didn't even seem like the loss of Arkadiusz Milik would be that detrimental to the team when he went down. Yes, he was in fantastic form and gelling well with the team, but with the rest of the team playing so well and having the quality they did, the loss of a striker shouldn't have hurt that much.

Well, hurt it did. Manolo Gabbiadini has been a disaster, and here we are just shy of two months later and Napoli still haven't found their footing in the post-Milik world. They've fallen out of the Serie A title race, and are at serious risk of not advancing out of a Champions League group that they should have won handily, and looked like they would before Milik's injury.

So, Napoli's story? It's not a good one. It's one that fans would like to see change, soon.

Arkadiusz Milik quickly proved himself to be an adequate replacement for Higuain with a high flying start for Napoli. How much is the team missing him given his long-term injury?

They're missing him a lot. It wasn't even just the goals and form Milik was in that makes him badly missed -- he was such a good fit for the rest of the team in terms of how he plays the game. Milik does a lot of little things that most strikers don't, especially in terms of movement and positioning.

The way he looks to occupy space, to find that one little window behind a defender's shoulder, or to make a run that will most likely put himself into position for a rebound or as a second option for a through ball, is one that works so, so well for Napoli. With the likes of Marek Hamsik, Lorenzo Insigne, and Jose Callejon supporting a guy who plays like Milik, it would be harder for him not to succeed than to find a positive outcome.

But without him in the side and with no one around who plays the same way, and with his potential replacements in Manolo Gabbiadini or Dries Mertens either too out of form or too ill-suited to play as a lone striker, they haven't found the same magic and chemistry again without him, and it's badly hampering the team's ability to play to their capability.

Napoli submitted some high-priced bids for Mauro Icardi which Inter rejected. Given his goalscoring record so far this season (joint-top goalscorer in Serie A) but also his attitude issues that once again reared their head (this time with the fans), do you wish he was on your team right now?

No. I didn't want him then, and I still don't want him now.

Both Napoli and Inter are currently struggling a bit to keep up with the top 3 teams in Serie A. Which team do you think is better suited to catch up and potentially sneak into a Champions League spot for next season?

It may be personal bias, but I think Napoli are the more likely to get going in the right direction again. They have their woes, to be sure, but most of their problems seem focused on the pitch, and should be eminently fixable because of that.

Inter, on the other hand, have this sense of palpable chaos all around the team, both on and off the pitch. Even after the removal of Frank De Boer, that hasn't gone away, and while they are a team with the talent to make that top three push, they won't get there until that chaos is gone.

Which player are you hoping will lead your team to victory?

Marek Hamsik, of course. Il Capitano is the one player who's still been at full throat for the partenopei through their struggles, and what few positive results they've had these past two months have largely been up to him. If Napoli can win this match, it will be because of what Marekiaro does on the pitch.

Which player would you take from the other team if you could?

Marcelo Brozovic may have had his clashes with De Boer, but his versatile, creative, driven presence in midfield would be a boon, and his ability to play well on the wing when needed would be useful as well given the team's struggles with depth in wide areas.

What is your prediction for the match?

Maybe Napoli have driven me to pessimism of late, but I see this one ending as a 2-2 draw.

I answered the same questions for him and you should be able to find my thoughts on their site shortly.