Have you ever noticed how many people like Napoli? I don’t mean that they are necessarily fans of the team. I don’t think Napoli has any more fans than anyone else, and they almost certainly have fewer fans than the giant clubs. I guess what I mean is that neutrals always seem to wish Napoli well. If Napoli is playing another team, and the person you are talking to is not a fan of that other club, the person will almost always root for the club from Naples. I don’t find this so much with most other clubs. If, say, Atalanta was playing Reggina, and I took a poll of my neutral football fan friends to see who they hope wins the match, the answer I would probably get from most of them would be: “I don’t care. Leave me alone.”
Why do people seem to like Napoli so much, then? The most obvious answer is that everyone likes Napoli because that was Maradona’s team; it certainly made the club the most famous team in the south of Italy. There is also the fact that Napoli is a likeable, perennially-underdog team that gives them some appeal. Perhaps the vibrant and pulsing city of Naples is part of the attraction. Hell, even their shirts are kind of cool. (Only a few teams can pull off the powder-blue look, but they are one of them.) Regardless, people in general seem to want Napoli to do well.
I bring this up because Fiorentina is in Naples to play Napoli tomorrow. Fiorentina, when we last left her, was four points clear in fourth place, precariously hanging onto their champions league spot. Napoli, meanwhile, is gamely hanging in there mid-table after coming up last season. Joe, our erstwhile Napoli correspondent, has a fine preview of the match which can be found here. Since he did such a nice job, and since I am swamped at my real job today, I am going to dispense with the usual preview stuff like projected line-ups, etc.
Fiorentina is surely tired (120 minutes at Everton last week followed by Genoa on Sunday at home) but unfortunately they must keep the wins coming. That is the price you pay if you want Champions League football. Milan has a few easier matches coming up, so they must at least keep the four point cushion, even if they can’t grow it. Napoli is an exiting, attacking team (they have put a bunch of goals up on opponents a number of times) but they are beatable. Joe, in his preview, was right when he says that Napoli’s greatest advantage tomorrow is probably the fact that they are playing at home, but a solid game by Fiorentina, rejuvenated by the return of Adrian Mutu, could net them a precious three points.
3-2 Fiorentina. I’ll be back tomorrow or Thursday with some sort of summary, although Napoli home matches are not televised, so it won’t be first-hand reporting.