Walter Mazzarri remains publicly confident about the state of his Napoli side, but after a 3-1 thumping from AS Roma on Sunday, and the loss of Ezequiel Lavezzi for five weeks with a groin injury, there's no question his team is struggling. It's certainly not time to panic, but the partenopei could stand to get a positive league result ahead of the winter break. They'll get that opportunity today at the San Paolo against a Genoa side that sits equal on points with Napoli in the table.
Mazzarri has options to cover for the absence of Lavezzi and the pressure of filling his shoes will fall to Marek Hamsik and Goran Pandev who will play behind Edinson Cavani up front. Maybe the unexpected shuffle will do the team some good and have some unexpected benefits. At this point, anything might help a side that has only won a single league match from their last seven and has managed just one victory at home in their last four. Despite a date in 2012 with Chelsea in the knockout stages of the Champions League, slumping out of contention for European qualification (something Napoli are in danger of doing) would do little to lift spirits at the club.
Genoa sits in eighth-place Genoa and will travel to Naples with some confidence thanks to a 2-1 win over Bologna, their second victory in three games. Alberto Malesani's club loks to improve on an away record this season that has seen them only pick up seven points from a possible 21 away from home. The task won't be made any easier with defender Cesare Bovo, midfielder Juraj Kucka and the team's top scorer Rodrigo Palacio all unavailable because of injury. Defender Emiliano Moretti is suspended for the match as well.
A victory for Genoa catapults this right in to the European fight, while a loss for Napoli could drop them even further behind league leader Juventus and AC Milan for the coveted Champions League spots. Not to mention being to put them out of touch of a surging Internazionale for the final Europa League spot. It's time for Mazzarri to break out his best motivational speech and have the hairdryer on standby as he tries to wake up his struggling side and end 2011 on a positive note.
Napoli vs. Genoa
Game Date/Time: Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2:45 p.m. ET, 8:45 p.m. local
Venue: Stadio San Paolo, Naples, Italy