Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis has sent the whole team into a forced retreat for the remainder of the season, a testament to the state of frustration and despair swirling around the Napoli camp in recent weeks. The home loss to Lazio in midweek appears to be the straw that broke the camel's back as Rafa Benitez's side sit 6th in Serie A, outside of the European places for the first time this season, and without a win in their last 5.
This week presents a golden opportunity for the Neapolitans to recover some of their lost favor, however, and Fiorentina must be wary. Vincenzo Montella has the Viola only 2 points above struggling Napoli, who will want to build momentum ahead of a pivotal Europa League quarterfinal match in Wolfsburg.
Fiorentina are still reeling a bit from *that* loss on Tuesday, but - in contrast to the condition of the Napoli camp - the fans are still fully behind the side and the coach. A win in Naples would open up a five point gap on the ciucciarelli, and put pressure on the second and third placed Roman clubs. Roma in particular face a difficult game away to in-form Torino.
The Viola have their own Europa League match to attend to on Thursday, away in Ukraine against Dynamo Kiev, so there might be a light dusting of rotation in this trip south. Certainly it's Khouma Babacar's turn to lead the attack, after Mario Gomez looking a bit out of sorts in his second start in a week. Alessandro Diamanti is expected to start on the right, as is Micah Richards, if Montella indeed favors the expected return to the 4-3-3. Milan Badelj is the big return in midfield, as Fiorentina sorely missed his tactical restraint and distribution against Juventus, while Stefan Savic and David Pizarro (still not a 100%), are expected to ride the bench.
Expect a hotly contested match, where the first 20 minutes might be decisive. Hopefully the Viola can, as they did against Roma, exploit the bad moment of their opponent and secure a huge result on the road. Forza Viola!
Napoli (4-2-3-1): Andujar; Maggio, Albiol, Koulibaly, Strinic; Inler, David Lopez; Callejon, Gabbiadini, Insigne; Higuain
FIORENTINA (4-3-3): NETO; RICHARDS, GONZALO, BASANTA, PASQUAL; KURTIC, BADELJ, MATI F.; DIAMANTI, BABACAR, SALAH