Napoli vs Sampdoria, preview: Visitors may prove difficult

Valerio Pennicino

Sampdoria are undefeated in their last three matches, and have finally remembered how to put the ball in the back of the net. With Napoli coming off a humiliating Europa League defeat, the visitors could prove to be a thorn in the partenopei's scudetto ambitions.

It took time for Delio Rossi to settle in at Sampdoria, but his side are unbeaten in three, including an impressive 6-0 victory over Pescara. Mauro Icardi, who scored four in that match, scored again last weekend, in Samp's 3-1 win over Roma. The Doria are now in 11th, although this being Serie A, that still means they're only seven points from safety.

No matter, though. Rossi is doing what he was brought in to do, which, surprisingly, does not involve disciplining players by punching them in the face. Although he might want to reconsider making rude gestures at Argentines, as last week's showing of the bird to Nicolás Burdisso means he'll be sitting in the stands for the next two weeks.

And after Napoli's pathetic showing away to Viktoria Plzen, Sampdoria can be forgiven for thinking they have a chance at the San Paolo. Sure, Walter Mazzarri put out a rather weak side, but even allowing for Marco Donadel, the partenopei were utterly disappointing.

Results such as the one in the Europa League just serve to show that, as incredible as Edinson Cavani might be, he is not the backbone of the side. Without Gokhan Inler and Marek Hamsik, Napoli suffer. Fortunately for the partenopei, there's no reason to believe either won't start on Sunday. Three points are essential to keep Juventus from running away with the scudetto, and they'll need every chance they get to keep down the rising Samp.

Napoli injuries and suspensions

In doubt: Lorenzo Insigne, Valon Behrami

Behrami is expected to return, having shaken off a sprained ankle, but Insigne may not be healthy after coming down with a stomach bug. They're both included in the Napoli squad for Sunday, but it's uncertain whether either will feature. Still, you gotta wonder if Goran Pandev can handle starting two matches within three days.

Sampdoria injuries and suspensions

Injured: Angelo Palombo

Suspended: Delio Rossi

Match date / time: Sunday, February 17 at 3 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET

Venue: Stadio San Paolo, Naples

TV: Sky Calcio 1, BeIN Sport USA, RAI Internazionale

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