Lazio vs Napoli, preview: All to play for at the Olimpico

Giuseppe Bellini

Six points separate Napoli, in second, with Lazio, in third. Will either side manage to capture all three points?

Juventus may host Fiorentina in the first match of Week 24, but it's the battle between Lazio and Napoli that's the can't-miss match of the Serie A weekend. These two sides have been struggling to keep a hold on second place -- and even challenge for first -- throughout the season, and this game could prove a pivotal point in the campaign.

While the visiting side has the advantage of a string of remarkable results -- they're undefeated in 2013 -- Lazio's play may be fueled by a twinge of desperation. The biancocelesti may have beaten Juve to advance to the Coppa Italia semi-final, but that's their most impressive result of the last few weeks.

Lazio drew with Palermo before losing to both Chievo Verona and Genoa. Dropping points to relegation-struggling sides isn't typically a way to convince the world you deserve a spot in next year's Champions League. Add to that the fact that Miroslav Klose will miss about two months with injury, and you can see why Vladimir Petkovic probably isn't sleeping so well.

In other words, this should be a cakewalk for the partenopei. Napoli are currently six points above Lazio and just three behind Juventus. They've won five out of their last six matches, only dropping points on the road, in a draw against Fiorentina. During the transfer window, they picked up essential reinforcements, including defender Rolando. left-back Pablo Armero, and forward Emanuele Calaiò.

But the thing about Napoli is they can't be trusted. Even though the odds in this match clearly favor the azzurri, there's still the potential for a meltdown of epic proportions. Paolo Cannavaro could turn the ball into his own net. Morgan De Sanctis could let one slip through his fingers. Edinson Cavani could leave his finishing boots behind in Naples.

That element of uncertainly should make this match exciting -- for neutrals, at least. Napoli supporters will likely spend 90+ minutes hiding behind the sofa.

Lazio Injuries and Suspensions

Cristian Brocchi and Miroslav Klose (injured); Alvaro Gonzalez (in doubt)

In good news for the biancocelesti, and for fans of comedic head gear, Hernanes is permitted to play as long as he wears a protective helmet.

Napoli Injuries and Suspensions

Blerim Dzemaili (suspended)

Worry not -- Napoli still have two other Swiss midfielders available.

Match Date / Time: Saturday, February 9 at 8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET

Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome

TV: Sky Calcio 1, and almost every country in the world except the USA and the UK.

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