After what felt like the longest off season in history, we are back against Lazio on Saturday. It’s the first leg of seven incredibly challenging fixtures for our new Maestro, Carlo Ancelotti, and should prove to be a highly entertaining affair.
Both teams have had a mixed pre-season with Lazio losing to Dortmund and Arsenal in their most recent fixtures and Napoli shipping nine goals in three games. Promising signs were there for the Partenopei, particularly in the Dortmund friendly, and I hope that system will be on display on Saturday…the flexible but more conservative, counter attacking 4-5-1. As for the match?
I expect goals.
Lazio are blooding new additions to their back line after the exit of De Vrij to Inter and the post Reina era between the sticks begins for Napoli. 24 hours before the match, it is still unsure who will be donning the eye raising snake design GK jersey. Karnezis made some high profile errors against Liverpool but recovered well against Dortmund and David Ospina, will have had less than a day with the team. Attacking this goal will be the Serbian sensation Sergej Milinković-Savić, who has stayed with Lazio, and the prolific Neapolitan Ciro Immobile. Keeping Lazio’s attacking threat at bay could be a major morale boost for our new keeper.
The major decision Ancelotti has to make is to do with the Regista role. The Hamsik makeover has yielded mixed results preseason and Diawara has emerged as a mature future leader of the midfield. With defensive worries at the back, I hope Mr. Ancelotti goes bold and plays the 21 year old option to prevent some of the lax marking and free space that Hamsik’s unfamiliarity with the role created in preseason.
Expect talented new signing Fabian to slot in to a midfield three with the ever reliable Allan alongside him. Up front it’s a straight choice between old and new; Impressive new signing Verdi competes with Ironman Callejon on the right and World Cup fatigued Mertens with Milik in the central role. The versatility of our forwards across the squad make predicting this configuration rather difficult. A great sign for our new era.
Forza Napoli Sempre
Predicted Napoli XI: Karnezis, Hysaj, Albiol, Koulibaly; Allan, Diawara, Fabian; Verdi, Milik, Insigne