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Role Reversal: Can Milan actually learn from Napoli?

Milan travels to Napoli's Stadio San Paolo this weekend, in a meeting where both clubs desperately need a victory for their respective reasons.

Claudio Villa

Since the 2007-2008 campaign, Napoli has found success in Serie A and despite winning the league's top honors since then, they have been regulars when it comes to challenging for first place, alongside UEFA Champions League qualifications over the past couple of years to cement their status.

Possessing some of the most passionate fan bases in all of Italian soccer, they have become a constant underdog that is almost impossible not to root for as a secondary squad.

When Walter Mazzari left the club in 2012 to coach Inter, many thought that it was the beginning of the end for the upstart club, who later sold last year's Serie A top scorer Edison Cavani to French giants Paris St-Germain.

New coach Rafael Benitez, the Spaniard who guided Liverpool to a famous 2005 UEFA Champions League victory over Milan was put in charge, and used that money to purchase Real Madrid players such as Gonzalo Higuain, Jose Callejon and Raul Albiol.

He also purchased veteran goalkeeper Pepe Reina -- the first to ever stop a Mario Balotelli penalty the last time both clubs played each other.

Napoli is in dire need of a win at the moment, losing to Atalanta by a margin of 3-0, and suffered a heartbreaking loss to Roma midweek in the Coppa Italia semi-finals by a score of 3-2. The team sits in third place, fighting for a spot in Europe's most prestigious tournament next year, while Milan try to climb from tenth place, where they battle a number of clubs for a position in next year's UEFA Europa Cup (everyone from fifth place Verona to fifteenth place Udinese has a shot at making the tournament with the amount of games left, considering how tight the points are).

In terms of the Serie A standings, does it seem odd to anyone else that Napoli sits in a place where Milan is expected to be in at all times, and Milan dwells mid-table in a position that would not surprise anyone if Napoli habitually rested there?

It almost seems like their roles have been reversed...however, this is a way different Napoli. It's a team that could teach Milan a few things.

The Benitez effect is obviously apparent, and he has strengthened the squad to make it look exactly like that -- a squad. Instead of taking Milan's approach, where the Rossoneri looks for transfer bargains and deals that would explain why Philippe Mexes and Sulley Muntari are still part of the team, Benitez chooses who he needs and who would fill the void in that particular position.

He also knows that having quality players like Marek Hamsik, workhorse defender Christian Maggio and the rising Lorenzo Insigne can't do it alone -- that's why he went out and splurged the cash for actual stars, and not just bargains.

For goodness sakes, he even went out and pinched veteran French defender Anthony Reveilliere when he needs someone to bulk up the backline in certain situations.

Certain players on Napoli are also given chances to become stars, and prove their worth -- something we'd like to see happen with Bryan Cristante and Riccardo Saponara.

Looking at players such as Callejon (the team's second top scorer), alongside Dries Martens and Blerim Dzemaili, who have five and four goals, respectively, they've been given opportunities to shine on a team where it's rather tough to acquire a starting position.

That's because a tactician like Benitez knows when and how to use his weapons.

As a team, Milan is drawn to setbacks, and instead of moving forward, they resort to complaining to the media that a club such as the Rossoneri should not be going through a crisis like this. Although, there won't be a newsflash that will surprise anyone any time soon, but that newsflash would probably say the club needs to rebuild...just like Napoli rebuilt.

Of course, Napoli's president Aurelio De Laurentiis is very dedicated and passionate when it comes to creating the best squad possible. He's more than willing to dig into his wallet and allow you to tell him when to stop. But, must we remind you who pulls the strings for Milan?!

And why do they promise us a bunch of signings, only to say the squad is perfect every freaking year when they fail to acquire a target?

When it comes to Clarence Seedorf, we can't compare him to "Rafa" but we're glad to have him on board (especially since he went out and got Michael Essien to give us some sort of hope). Saturday's game will indicate if Seedorf can establish his worth quickly, having found himself in the biggest game of his early coaching career in less than a month's time.

Napoli have only found victory once in their past five Serie A encounters, but a more frustrating statistic is that Milan have not beat Napoli once in their last five Serie A encounters.

It's going to be a cracker of a game at the Stadio San Paolo on Saturday, and one that both teams desperately need to win in order for their post-season plans to fall through.

With all this being said, do you think Milan can learn from Napoli's uprising? Here's another question to consider...who's been the better team for the course of almost two years now?