Napoli vs Sampdoria: Preview and TV schedule

Giuseppe Bellini

Napoli resume their faltering Scudetto challenge by welcoming an improved Sampdoria to the San Paolo.

The inconsistent Partenopei ended 2013 in third place and will look for improved results during the second half of the season, in order to keep up with top two Juventus and AS Roma. Rafa Benitez notoriously struggled against some of Serie A's lower sides before Christmas. For each victory against AC Milan, Lazio and Inter Milan, there were dropped points in the games that followed against Sassuolo, Udinese and Cagliari. With Fiorentina hot on their tails, Napoli have a fight to keep hold of the third and final Champions League slot.

Sinisa Mihajlovic has transformed Sampdoria from relegation candidates to potential mid-table candidates since replacing Delio Rossi.  The Serb remains unbeaten after his first six games in charge at the Marassi, picking up nine points from a possible 15. In addition, Samp have progressed in the Coppa Italia thanks to a 4-1 thrashing of Hellas Verona. This game is far from being cut and dried.

When it comes to team selection, Benitez is a master at keeping everyone guessing. However, a couple of injuries have taken some decisions out of his hands. Pepe Reina and Marek Hamsik are still out which means Rafael will keep the goalkeeping gloves. Juan Zuniga and Giandomenico Mesto remain on the sidelines, while a bruised foot also rules out Swiss midfielder Valon Behrami. That leaves Blerim Dzemaili, Gokhan Inler and Dries Mertens to battle for the midfield positions. Gonzalo Higuain and Jose Callejon have chipped in with just under half of Napoli's 36 domestic goals. Both are expected to lead the line with support from Goran Pandev.

Infrequently seen defender Paolo Cannavaro limped out of a training game and has been left out of the squad. Given his lack of minutes under Benitez, rumours of a potential move to either Inter Milan or Lazio during the January transfer window have started to pick up pace.

Sampdoria can report a near clean bill of health for the trip to Naples. Top scorer Eder's return from injury has given the Blucerchiati a boost. The Brazilian attacker has seven goals to his name so far. Nicola Pozzi will make his 100th appearance for the club if selected.

Neither side has been on the end of a 0-0 scoreline this season, although last season's corresponding fixture did produce a stalemate. Samp have failed to find the net on each of their last five visits to the San Paolo.

Napoli injuries and suspensions

Out: Pepe Reina, Juan Zuniga, Giandomenico Mesto, Valon Behrami, Marek Hamsik (injured)

Sampdoria injuries and suspensions

Out: Gaetano Berardi (injured)

Projected lineups

Napoli: Rafael, Maggio, Albiol, Fernandez, Reveillere, Inler, Dzemaili, Callejon, Pandev, Mertens, Higuain

Sampdoria: Da Costa, De Silvestri, Mustafi, Gastaldello, Costa, Palombo, Renan, Gabbiadini, Krsticic, Eder, Pozzi

Match Date/Time: Monday 6th January 2014, 12:30 p.m. local, 6:30 a.m. ET

Venue: San Paolo, Naples, Italy

TV: Sky Supercalcio HD, Sky Calcio 1, Premium Calcio (Italy) beIN Sport Play, RAI Internazionale (U.S) BT Sport 1 (UK)

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