Napoli vs. Lazio
Stadio San Paolo
13.04.2014 – 14:00 GMT
Third placed Napoli host Europa League chasing Lazio this Sunday at the Stadio San Paolo. Napoli followed up their excellent 2-0 defeat of champions Juventus with a tame 1-0 defeat away to Parma. They will be looking to get back to winning ways and a win this Sunday secures third spot, and Champions League football. Lazio are two points behind Parma, who are currently in the sixth and final European qualification spot. They will be looking to take points to keep up the chase.
Napoli’s 1-0 defeat last weekend did not come as a surprise to many. Rafa Benitez’s side contains a whole host of talent, but have been unable to find the level of consistency required to mount a serious challenge. All too often, they drop silly points and their win against Juventus – only the second domestic defeat of the season for the current league leaders and champions – was made largely redundant by their inability to build on it. At the business end of the season, they find themselves occupying the last Champions League spot, but instead of pushing Roma for second position, they are closer to Fiorentina, who are in fourth position. A win this Sunday, however, secures this third place, so the task for the remainder of the season is finalising Champions League football, and building for next season in the summer. One of their current stars is on loan goalkeeper Pepe Reina, who is hopeful he can make his move permanent in the summer. He said
“I have two more years on my contract with Liverpool, so my future is linked with them,”
“Based on this fact, we will have to talk with Napoli after the loan expires at the end of the season.
“I’m happy here in Naples and I’m having a great season. We will deal with Liverpool when the time comes.
Meanwhile, Lazio are pushing for the final Europa League spot this season. The Roman club have had a fairly mediocre season, and have had to contend with the impressive form of their big city rivals, who have been in impressive form for most of the season, even if their title challenge faded around the turn of the year. Financially, Lazio are no longer able to compete with the big guns of Serie A, after their big spending days at the turn of the century under Sven Goran Eriksson. Whilst their drawing power has faded, and their ambitions tempered as a result, they still possess a number of players that are attracting bigger clubs. Italian international Antonio Candreva has been linked with a number of Serie A sides, and Belgian defender Luis Cavanda has been admiring glances from a number of European clubs, including Arsenal. The young defender is remaining open minded about his future, but maintains his development as a player comes before anything else:
“I must still grow and I have no intentions of stopping myself from doing so,” said the Angolan-born Belgian international.
“Is Arsenal interested in me? I’ll think about these things with my agent soon, I don’t want to talk about it right now.
Napoli go into this tie without defender Christian Maggio, who has been out since mid-March, and has not yet regained full fitness. Lazio have more pressing injury concerns, with goalkeeper Federico Marchetti out with a muscle tear, defender Diego Novaretti out with a hamstring injury and influential striker Miroslav Klose missing with muscular problems.
I feel Napoli will secure Champions League football with a fairly straightforward win. Benitez’s side, along with Roma, possess a great deal of talent, but must look to build on this and command a greater level of consistency than they are currently capable of. I think that they will show Lazio what they are capable of, and will get the necessary victory to allow the squad to turn their attention to next season. Lazio may have to miss out on a European berth this season. Napoli by two goals