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

A victory is always a good result however Napoli’s victory over Genoa this last weekend was important in the context of the previous weeks. A third defeat in a row was unthinkable. Thankfully it didn’t materialise thanks to a typical Marek Hamsik goal and performance, oblivious for 80 minutes and then scoring when it matters ‘The ball just did not want to go in’ he told the media post match. Thankfully it did, and how much of an important goals it turned out to be in the following 48 hours….

Fiorentina beat Udinese 5-2 last Sunday afternoon in a fantastic end to end game. The result meant if Lazio lost to Juventus in the Monday night clash then Napoli would be guaranteed at least fourth place. A Simone Pepe strike maybe didn’t have Napoli fans cheering on Juventus but the end result meant Napoli had done it. A top four spot has been assured and at the very least a place in the UEFA Champions League play off. Only a freak run of results will deny Napoli an automatic spot in group stages of the competition and with Lazio playing Udinese this coming weekend Napoli could be assured third place of that clash ends in a draw..

So for the first time in over twenty years Napoli look set to take part in UEFA’s premier club competition. Its taken just seven years for Aurelio De Laurentiis and Napoli to get from Serie C to the UEFA Champions League, an incredible achievement considering by De Laurentiis’s own words ‘Seven years ago I bought a piece of paper for €30m’. Seven years later that ‘piece of paper’ now includes some of the most exciting players in Italy, a balance sheet that is positive and a support like no other in Italy.

However Napoli have a number of hurdles to overcome before they can be seen as a credible force in the Champions League. Firstly Napoli need to ensure they qualify for the group stages of the competition. This as discussed above is almost a given. Napoli must not loose focus until third place is secure. Nobody wants to go into the play off round and suffer the same fate as Sampdoria did this season.

Once in the group stage because of UEFA coefficient Napoli will very likely be in pot four for the draw which mean they will face three teams that are ranked higher than them. This is when the Champions League will become reality. Morgan De Sanctis has said he wants to play Manchester United in the groups stage. If Napoli get to the group stage I would like to see Napoli play Barcelona in all honesty. Seeing Lionel Messi in the Stadio San Paolo would be an amazing sight.

Those in charge at the club know Napoli are not ready in the current state. Walter Mazzarri told the press after the Genoa game that you need 22 quality players at Champions League level, he may as well have said the Napoli squad isn’t good enough and I agree with this, at least in terms of the quality of reserves. If you look at Napoli’s Europa League campaign the team shipped three goals in each of the group games played away from home, this is simply not good enough for the Europa League never mind the Champions League level and Napoli were fortunate to get of the group. Napoli can’t and mustn’t enter the Champions League with players such as Emilson Cribari, Salvatore Aronica and Michele Pazienza as they are simply not good enough for the top level of European competition.

Aurelio De Laurentiis also knows the club isn’t prepared in its current state for a Champions League campaign, ‘we will invest in midfielders and attacker’ he boasted on Thursday night. Players such as Gokhan Inler, Riccardo Montolivo and Amauri have been linked heavily with moves to Naples this summer and would strengthen the side but its the situation of the coach that needs addressing for next season to maintain stability.

As De Laurentiis and the rest of his entourage ploughs on planning for next season we are left waiting on what coach Walter Mazzarri will do for next season. I will not bother quoting the rumours as I have seen so many contradiction and quite frankly ridiculous quotes in what the calcio talking heads have been saying it will be futile to repeat. Mazzarri himself has maintained throughout the affair that he will talk at the end of the season. Until then we are all left waiting. The players want him to stay, the fans want him to say. Does Aurelio and can he persuade Mazzarri to stay on? I and the vast majority of Napoli fans are hoping the answer is yes.

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