Almost feels like yesterday that Napoli and Milan were duking it out at the top of the table for Serie A supremacy! By the way, by yesterday, I mean 1989, and seeing that I was only six, I don’t remember all the details, but it was a special season for both teams as Milan began to establish themselves as Serie A powerhouses once again and a one Diego Armando Maradona became a Saint in Napoli as he delivered a scudetto to the region of origin for this Milan fan. It was unforgettable for me because at that age I was really beginning to take an interest in Calcio and AC Milan and being that my family is from the area around Napoli it was ironic that a six year old aspiring Milan fan was being told rather frequently that I had made the wrong choice and that Napoli and Maradona were going to take over the footballing World. I got the last laugh with a few Scudetti, a few CL’s and a pretty fun blog, while my family members who chastised my choice had a nice trip to Serie B and not much else to show for it. Maybe there is some truth to the notion that Napoli sold their soul for that one title…but maybe that deal with the Devil is about to expire…
I am not going to go into a full blown preview here with lineups and tactics, I will reserve that for the weekend, but I do want to start drumming up some excitement for a match that may decide the scudetto. One versus two, a three point gap, and a momentum swing that can catapult an unlikely Napoli team to new heights or cement Milan’s spot in first place. But I do want to pose the simple question, is this Napoli run really all that unlikely?? Are we really talking about a team that is merely lucky and has no business being so close to the top or are we watching a team becoming a new contender in the Serie A? You have to believe this team is coming into its own, not just now but for a few years to come and the Milan v Napoli rivalry that cemented my Milan fandom as a child is being rekindled before my very eyes.
Ladies and gentleman let’s be clear, this Napoli team is no joke, and while detractors claim there is no depth or that they lack match winners, I bet a whole mess of Roma fans would take the Napoli way over what they have going on in the Eternal City. Starting from back to front you have veteran leadership in DeSanctis and Cannavaro, stout and strong wing play from Maggio and Dossena, and some pretty slick attacking ability with Hamsik, Lavessi, and El Matador, Edison Cavani, who already has 20 goals on the season with some in spectacular fashion and is absolutely thrashing my Serie A Live fantasy team. Add in a pretty visionary Coach in Mazzari who has evolved this 3-5-2 into a solid balanced formation and you have a formidable team with a good mix of youth and veteran leadership with a great bit of team chemistry to boot. Then throw in players that can contribute off the bench like Zuniga, Mascara, and Blasi; you can’t count out this team that can only improve if they keep the core together.
So what does that mean for AC Milan?? Well first and foremost it means that the upcoming match has greater implications than just the title. AC Milan can shatter some dreams and aspirations, and while I don’t think a loss will completely bury Napoli, it will bring them back down to Earth and reinforce who and what AC Milan are, in a year where other usual Serie A powerhouses like Juventus and Inter are struggling for consistency. It also gives Allegri and Milan the confidence that they can beat a direct rival for the title while building momentum into the upcoming trips to Torino and White Hart Lane. Think of this a swing game, the type of game that kick starts one team going up and potentially the other going down and while I have the utmost respect and admiration for Napoli and what they have done, I have no intention of being the team on the losing end of this one. If you remember it was the last Napoli match where Oddo had two spectacular assists and Milan pulled through in dramatic fashion that kick started this team’s rise the top so a win here may be the final push.
As the squad lists are sorted, and injuries reviewed I will post a proper match preview, but I felt like with a match of such epic proportions it needed a bit more. It needed the credit it deserves and while it may not get the dramatic play of a London rivalry or a big Derby, this match is special to me. Special to my history as a Calcio fan, special to your history as a Milan fan, and special to Napoli fans who know that when Diego’s life spiraled out of control it was Milan who was ready to pick up the torch and that deal with the Devil may still be in force and Milan are going to look to keep that in place on the weekend! Best of luck to all my family and friends who continue to support Napoli through thick and thin, but don’t come calling this weekend, as my Rossoneri family takes precedence!