Napoli vs. Fiorentina: Match Preview and 5 Questions with "The Siren's Song"

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Another HUGE game awaits Fiorentina this weekend away at Napoli, so in preparation we did a little Q&A with a fellow blogger over at The Siren's Song to get the inside scoop on Napoli's season.

So, first a bit on Napoli, from the excellent Conor Dowley!

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Me: How do you assess the general mood in the Napoli camp after going out to Porto? Has this been a successful season for Napoli so far? Do you think it will be at the end of the season?

(I know, I cheated with like 3 questions there.)

CONOR: There was a lot of expectation, both in the team and among the fanbase, that Napoli would challenge for the Europa League trophy, so to go out this early and with that poor a performance stings more than a little. I would say the season as a whole as a been a success, given the record first-half points total and being in third mostly thanks to ridiculous seasons from Juve and Roma that really couldn't have been predicted before the season. Well, Juve being in front could have been predicted, but not like this. As to the end of the season... with no European trophy available any more, the immediate goal has to be passing Roma to get the second guaranteed Champions League group stage spot. If Napoli can do that and beat your lot for the Coppa Italia trophy, I'd say it's definitely been a successful season.

Me: Who is the most in-form Napoli player? Does Fiorentina present him with problems, or is he likely to continue his good play?

CONOR: That's a bit of a tough question, given how out of form the squad has been of late. I'd have to say that it'd be Gonzalo Higuain.

He has half a dozen goals since early February, and has been the club's main creative spark as well.

Me: If you could have on Fiorentina player on the Napoli roster for this game, who would it be and why?

CONOR: Shame Adem Ljajic isn't still around, otherwise this answer would be easy (and would make Kirsten happy to boot!). Someone flashy like Mario Gomez or Juan Cuadrado would be the obvious answer, but both play in fairly well covered positions for Napoli. I'm somewhat tempted to say Alberto Aquilani as a passer/organizer from central midfield was badly needed earlier in the season, but now Jorginho is there doing it with aplomb. So my answer is.... Josep Ilicic. A lack of a proper backup for Marek Hamsik has been a thorn in Napoli's side all season long, and I've been a fan of the Slovenian's for a couple years now. Plus, when he's not starting his skill set works well for impact off the bench, something Napoli have too often lacked this season.

Me: What's been the most frustrating part of this Napoli season? The most positive?

CONOR: The most frustrating part of the season has honestly been most of this stretch since the winter break. Napoli have dropped eleven points in winnable matches, too many of which came after leading for most of the match. It's been a continuation of a season-long struggle to not play flat as all get out against the "lesser" clubs in the lower reaches of the table, and it's been made all the more frustrating by Napoli frequently coming out in the next match and beating the snot out of a club they should struggle against. Which leads me to the most positive: they have been great in matches against clubs that they should just flat lose to or really struggle with. It's all kind of the package you get with Rafa Benitez as your manager, for better or worse.

Me: You'll probably hate me for this, so apologies in advance but... Cavani or Higuain?

CONOR: I hate you for this: not for bringing up Cavani (miss you, Matador), but because this is a really, really hard question to answer that I've been struggling with recently. Edinson is a dominant beast who flies all over the pitch making his presence felt both in attack and defense, and who can score from basically anywhere. Gonzalo Higuain is a bit more of a restrained, almost cultured figure in comparison, but that doesn't take anything away from him. He's probably a better passer and creator than Cavani is, which works well with a squad that gives him a lot more support from the wings and midfield than the squads Cavani was in did. So, for this iteration of Napoli, Higuain by a hair. Though I can't help but wonder what Cavani would do in this squad...

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SO MUCH BETTER INFORMED! Thanks again to The Siren's Song, SB Nation's Napoli blog. Here are my answers to Conor's questions, if you are curious.

As far as team news, Vincenzo Montella is expected to start an adventurous 4-3-3, hopeful of this clinical Napoli side. Fiorentina are deprived of David Pizarro, Anderson, and Matias Fernandez in midfield, so Aquilani will fill in as regista, with Borja Valero reinstated in his left-center position after his 3 match ban. The absences hand a big opportunity for our Polish talent Rafal Wolski, who will start slightly out of position in this huge game. Juan Cuadrado, Mario Gomez, and Joaquin make up the attacking trident. Defensively expect Manuel Pasqual and Modibo Diakite to handle the wide areas, with the usual Gonzalo Rodriguez and Stefan Savic pairing in the middle. Hopefully they keep Neto (dare we say it) our most in-form player, from having too much to do.

Rafa Benitez only has to do without Christian Maggio for the visit of la Viola, and will choose the strongest team he can. Keep an eye on former Hellas Verona player (and one-time Fiorentina target) Jorginho pulling strings in midfield, and pacy Belgian Dries Mertens on the left wing versus Diakite (gulp).

Projected Lineups

Napoli (4-2-3-1): Reina; Reveillere, Fernandez, Albiol, Ghoulam; Inler, Jorginho; Callejon, Hamsik, Mertens; Higuain

FIORENTINA (4-3-3): Neto; Diakite, Gonzalo, Savic, Pasqual; Wolski, Aquilani, Borja Valero; Cuadrado, Gomez, Joaquin

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