Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Frank Tigani On February - 28 - 2011

Milan v Napoli: The Title Decider

Tonight Milan entertain Napoli in what will be a showdown between the main protagonists for this season’s Scudetto.

At the start of the season few expected Napoli to be serious title contenders. Yet, as it stands, the Partenopei are the one team with the best chance of overtaking the Rossoneri and claiming an unlikely Scudetto triumph.

The last time Napoli won the Serie A title was back in 1990 with a team inspired by none other than Diego Armando Maradona. Interestingly, then as is now, the race for the title was between Napoli and Milan with Inter, the reigning champions back then also, as the team lurking behind with intent.

Despite their standings in the Serie A, both sides will head into this match with much to prove after their less than impressive results in Europe over the last ten days.

Earlier this week Napoli were eliminated from the Europa League by Villareal whilst Milan were humbled at home by Tottenham last week. Though Milan are still in the Champions League from a technical point of view, they face a very difficult task at White Hart Lane if they are to progress. The Scudetto now represents the best chance for a major trophy for both Napoli and Milan this season.

Having rested a number of players for their trip to Spain on Thursday, the Neapolitans will head into this match relatively fresh with a side almost at full strength. The only notable absentee for Napoli is that of Ezequiel Lavezzi who is suspended.

Milan still have a number of first team regulars unavailable. Massimo Ambrosini, Andrea Pirlo, Daniele Bonera and Luca Antonini are all still on the injury list. In a boost for the side, Kevin Prince Boateng is set to return to the starting eleven and therefore Young Alexander Merkel will return to the bench.

Despite the club signing two left backs in January in the shape of Urby Emmanuelson and Didac Vila, it looks likely that Max Allegri is to deploy Massimo Oddo at left back.  Such a decision seems baffling. Oddo is a right back first of all and secondly, he is old and way past his best.

Alternatively, both Emmanuelson and Vila are young and fast players with potential to fulfil. Though this is difficult to understand, Emmanuelson and Vila have not one minute of playing time at left back between them, which in itself if mystifying yet it does maybe explain why in a game of such importance Allegri will trust in the old experienced head of Massimo Oddo.

After his brilliant winner last week, Alexandre Pato is expected to get the nod at the expense of Antonio Cassano who was disappointing last week against Chievo.

Though Pato’s speed and finishing ability will be of a great advantage against the slow back three of Napoli, the creative genius of Cassano will be sorely missed for a side that so many times this season has lacked imagination in the final third.

This is arguably the biggest game for Napoli since that season in 1990 when they won the title. Ever since then success has been elusive with the club having suffered the indignity of two spells in Serie B and even two seasons spent in Serie C1. Napoli’s achievements this season have already surpassed all expectations, especially for a side that only returned to the top flight in 2007, the year Milan were crowned European and World champions.

Milan, on the other hand, have been one of the most successful clubs in the world in the last twenty years. For this reason, four years without a trophy represents a long time. In addition, it has been a long seven years since the club last won the Scudetto.

There is much to play for in tomorrow night’s game for both clubs. Milan will be hoping to continue the Rossoneri’s unbeaten run against the Azzurri at home, a run that has lasted since 1986. As for Napoli, the club will be hoping to continue to surprise by achieving the unlikely and beating Milan. Whatever does eventuate, one thing for sure is that we are set for an intriguing and entertaining affair.

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