Parma vs Napoli, Preview: Neapolitans face tricky tie as Donadoni plots his revenge

Valerio Pennicino

Dumped unceremoniously as the coach of Napoli after overseeing 19 games in 2009, Roberto Donadoni will be out for revenge as his Parma side host the partenopei at the Ennio Tardini.

Parma are fast becoming one of the most notoriously difficult sides to beat in Serie A, largely due to the work of Donadoni in re-establishing his coaching -- and Parma's playing -- credentials. It is telling that one of the last teams to beat the crociati at home in the league was Napoli, way back in March.

The gialloblu haven't, in fact, beaten the partenopei at home since May 2001, and go into this tie short of star defender Cristian Zaccardo, who has headed off to AC Milan. Trying to predict Donadoni's tactics and team selections is often a futile task, though the man who will likely be tasked with stepping into Zac's shoes is ex-Neapolitan defender Fabio Santacroce, particularly if the Don opts to go with a 3-5-2 over a 4-3-3.

Despite Parma going unbeaten in their last five games, they only narrowly survived defeat at the hands of Chievo last weekend, scraping a 1-1 draw when really a four goal demolition by the Flying Donkeys would have been more representative of how the game played out. As for Napoli, their cagey affair against Fiorentina ended in a tie too, with Juventus able to open out their lead at the top of the table to five points.

In the interests of a title race, it's a game for the neutrals to swing behind Napoli, though a win for Parma could see them move yet closer to achieving their dream of European football, and that's surely more exciting. Or maybe that's just me.

Rodney Strasser could make his first appearance in a Parma shirt after being chucked into the Zaccardo deal on loan, while Napoli captain Paolo Cannavaro seems set for his first start since returning from a now-annulled ban on match-fixing grounds. Valon Behrami has a one match suspension, meaning his compatriot Blerim Dzemaili should be given a start on his old stomping ground, while Christian Maggio's injury is expected to pave the way for Giandomenico Mesto to maraud up the right flank.

The dangermen for both sides are obvious: Edinson Cavani of Napoli and Parma's Ishak Belfodil are both in red-hot form, with the former notching up six goals in his last five games and the latter four in his last five. With Cavani now on 17 for the season, he has hit his peak at the perfect time, and will no doubt strike fear into the hearts of the Parma defence, having scored the last two times these sides met.

Parma Injuries and Suspensions

Out: Daniele Galloppa (injured) Djamel Mesbah (international duty)

Napoli Injuries and Suspensions

Out: Christian Maggio (injured) Valon Behrami (suspended)

Match Date/Time: Sunday 27th January 2013 3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. E.T.

Venue: Stadio Ennio Tardini, Parma, Italy

TV: Sky Calcio 2 (Italy), beIN Sport en Español (U.S.)

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