Despite being deprived of seeing Edinson Cavani – the highest profile transfer of the summer in Serie A – wearing the Napoli shirt in pre-season, fans have been warned that the new striker will not start Thursday night’s Europa League preliminary tie at the Stadio San Paolo.
Cavani surprisingly joined Napoli despite reported interest from Inter earlier this summer. The Uruguayan has signed a one-year loan before Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis will shell out £14m for his permanent signature. But any hopes that Napoli fans had of finally seeing him in action have been ended by Walter Mazzarri, when the Coach declared that he would start as a substitute on Thursday night.
Napoli face Elfsborg in their Europa League third round qualification match. The Swedish side go in to the fixture with rather low expectations but their superior match fitness could work in their favour. Elfsborg are several weeks into their domestic season, as both De Laurentiis and Mazzarri have pointed out, whilst Napoli haven’t yet completed pre-season. The World Cup involvement of several of their players has also hampered preparations for the new campaign, as is the case with countless other clubs around the world. Frustratingly for Napoli, not only did Cavani arrive for pre-season at a later date than the rest of the squad due to his exploits in South Africa, but he also missed most of last week due to the bizarrely timed international friendlies. Cavani and Walter Gargano jetted out to Uruguay, whilst Fabio Quagliarella, Ezequiel Lavezzi, and Marek Hamsik were also involved with their respective nations. This resulted in them missing Napoli’s pre-season tournament with both Palermo and Valencia. The main reason for the clubs involvement in the competition was to top up their fitness levels prior to Thursday’s visit of Elfsborg.
Napoli have particular concerns over Cavani, as the new signing has seldom been at the club since signing for them. Mazzarri, therefore, has announced that he will resist any temptation to throw him straight into action against Elfsborg, although he has insisted there are no doubts over the striker‘s fitness.
“Edinson did his first true training session with us this week,” Mazzarri said on Wednesday. “It would be a smite if I were to play him as a regular.
“Cavani is an important player and on a physical level he would be able to give a good performance, but he doesn’t know the mechanisms of the team.”
“From a physical and mental point of view I have seen him be receptive. For this reason I have the hope that if I were to put him on, he could still help us.”
“However, these are games in which you can’t make any mistakes.”
Mazzarri’s starting eleven is therefore somewhat predictable, especially given last week’s matches against Palermo and Valencia. The defence in front of Morgan De Sanctis should be comprised of Christian Maggio on the right and Salvatore Aronica on the left. Club captain Paolo Cannavaro’s central defensive partner will be chosen between Gianluca Grava and Leandro Rinaudo. If last week’s friendly match evidence is to be believed, Mazzarri will deploy four in midfield. Camilo Zuniga played on the right wing with Andrea Dossena on the left, and Michele Pazienza and Manuele Blasi were the destroyers in the middle. However it seems hard to believe that Gargano and Hamsik will not be involved from the start, so the personnel and formation of the midfield may be tinkered with. It is patently obvious that Cavani will be amongst the substitutes, so Quagliarella and Lavezzi should start up-front.
Lavezzi has been particularly vocal about the need to defeat Elfsborg in Thursday’s Europa League preliminary tie. The Argentine has become a senior figure at the club since his arrival three years ago, and recently issued a call to his team-mates to reach the Europa League group stages by beating Elfsborg.
“When I arrived here it was Napoli’s first year in Serie A,” Lavezzi explained. “Now we have grown up, the team is becoming strong.”
“The moment has arrived to start winning. It doesn’t interest me what we win, but I would like to win something important.”
“This is why tomorrow evening’s game against Elfsborg must be faced with intelligence. We mustn’t be in a hurry to win.”
“We must win and not concede any goals. This is fundamental.
“I feel responsible for my team-mates even if the people see me in a different way. The fans think that I am more important than the others, so they always expect a lot from me, something extra. I hope I don’t disappoint them.”
With Cavani on the bench, it will be Lavezzi who leads the line for Napoli – and he’s never disappointed before.