Napoli vs Atalanta, preview: How low can Napoli go?

Marco Luzzani

Now nine points adrift from Juventus at the top of the table, Napoli desperately need a win to keep Milan from closing in on second place. But is it likely they can turn things around against Atalanta?

It's almost hard to believe Napoli are still in second, considering how they've hit a destructive spiral and seem destined to keep sliding until they lose all hope of seeing European competition next season. Once on the verge of catching Juventus, the partenopei are now nine points back of the Serie A leaders. They've scored just one goal in their last six matches in all competitions and haven't won a game since February 2, when they beat Catania.

So what's happened to this side that looked so bright and brilliant in January? Well, for one thing, Edinson Cavani hasn't scored a goal since Napoli's win over Parma -- almost two months ago. But even though El Matador is the Napoli player wracking up all the goals, the true core of the side is Marek Hamsik. When he's in a slump, the rest of the team suffers. And Markiaro hasn't been himself for the past month, ever since he was mugged after the Sampdoria match.

So will Atalanta's visit be the final spadeful of dirt tossed on the partenopei coffin? La Dea are one of the more predictable Serie A sides: they fall to the likes of Juventus, Lazio, Fiorentina and Roma. Atalanta have won their last two, but those games were against Siena and Pescara. But they did manage to get all three points against Napoli back in October, and the scene is set for La Dea to do the double.

Stefano Colantuono has said his side will need to be perfect to beat Napoli, but you have to think he's just trying to protect Walter Mazzarri's feelings. He's got to be confident heading to Naples on Sunday, particularly considering Germán Denis grabbed two last weekend -- the last time that happened, Atalanta beat Inter Milan 3-2. It wouldn't be surprising if the Argentine continued his hot streak against his former club.

Napoli Injuries and Suspensions

Miguel Britos (in doubt)

But what of the mental state of Cavani and Hamsik? That's what the people really need to know!

Atalanta Previews and Suspensions

Daniele Capelli and Guido Marilungo (injured); Giuseppe Luca (suspended); Gianpaolo Bellini and Lionel Scaloni (in doubt)

As long as Marko Livaja is fit, I don't think Colantulano will be fussed. And while we're talking about Livaja, may I just deliver a big fat "I told you so" to Andrea Stramaccioni? Oh, wait, Livaja's brace was two weeks ago. It's probably too late for me to make a big deal about it.

Match Date / Time: Sunday, March 17 at 3 p.m. local, 10 a.m. ET

Venue: Stadio San Paolo, Naples

TV: Sky Calcio 2, beIN Sport en Español. Don't bother checking on the English BeIN Sport -- it's showing AC Milan's pre-determined win over Palermo.

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