Ancelotti, Napoli look to rebound on home turf against Fiorentina

Ancelotti

Napoli entered the recent international break with a sour taste in their mouth as the defeat away to Sampdoria 3-0 at the Marassi opened the Partenopei up for criticism.

While Fabio Quagliarella’s awe-inspiring back-heel goal went viral and stole most of the attention, the Scudetto hopefuls were lambasted for their collective effort, and now Carlo Ancelotti’s men enter must-win mode this weekend at home against a hot Fiorentina side in order to keep pace with Juventus at the top.

The Azzurri opened the 2018-19 Serie A campaign with a tight 2-1 win at the Stadio Olimpico over Lazio, followed by completing the roaring come-from-behind victory against Milan. Of course, the shutout loss to the Blucerchiati was quite alarming considering the quality of the squad and Ancelotti’s ambitions, but to discredit Marco Giampaolo’s group who are a notoriously strong home outfit would be unfair.

It boils down to Napoli being outworked, outplayed and out-classed, and perhaps it will serve as the early-season wakeup call heading into a tricky fixture at the San Paolo versus ‘the Viola’.

Ancelotti’s come under a bit of fire in the early phase of the season for his selections. The honeymoon phase has ended, and now it’s crunch time for the 59-year old eyebrow-raising boss to establish his ideal XI with the squad he inherited from Maurizio Sarri, and prove Napoli can remain the Bianconeri’s closest competitor for domestic glory.

Much has been made about Ancelotti’s decision to start Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik over Dries Mertens who thrived under Sarri centrally as a ‘false 9′ with consistent goal production.  The attacking trio of Lorenzo Insigne, Mertens and Jose Callejon was a healthy blend of creativity, quickness, skill and productivity, with goals and assists piling in to make Napoli a high-powered offensive side.

Callejon’s return to his normal role on the right could be crucial to Napoli returning to their well-oiled self up front, but it remains to be seen if ‘Carletto’ will yank Milik for Mertens who is a sparkplug that scored both the winning goal against the Rossoneri in the 3-2 win and looked impactful in each of his three cameos off the bench.

Meanwhile, the ‘regista’ choice seems like a week-to-week case for Ancelotti who started Marek Hamsik twice to begin the season before youngster Amadou Diawara occupied the role at the base a few weekends ago in defeat.

The Slovak’s transition is a work in progress at this time despite an encouraging debut at Lazio, but with Diawara still having to prove he can take the keys from Jorginho and drive the midfield long-term, it is likely Ancelotti rolls with his captain – especially considering the complexity and importance of this encounter.

Napoli will without question be in for a real battle against a vibrant young side like Stefano Pioli’s Fiore. In order to stymie a hot attacking side led by Giovanni Simeone and Federico Chiesa, the Partenopei’s defensive line must be on their toes and ensure the home San Paolo attendees are rewarded with a win off the break through a more polished effort.

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